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Maxim CEO talks analogue, strategic integration

Posted: 07 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:analogue? design? foundry?

EE Times: What about the tools?

Doluca: In digital, the tools are fantastic. You can write what you need at a high level. Most digital engineers probably don't know what a transistor is because they don't have to.

Digital is very deterministic; analogue is not. That means design verification relies heavily on how good your modelling is and how good your simulation uses those models.

Verification is a major challenge as designs get more complex. For example, an op amp has five specs to check. It is far more challenging for a big chip with ADCs and MCUs and DACs to drive actuators and many amplifiers.

EE Times: What's your call to action to the EDA community?

Doluca: In one word, verification. Make the tools faster, and make them interface with manufacturing and test development for a better flow.

In most cases the tools are there, they are not good enough yet, but they are getting better. The issues are not just in the tools, but also the mindset of how engineers use them, so it also requires changes from management.

Sensors and MEMS are strategic

EE Times: Will Maxim keep making standard analogue building blocks?

Doluca: Yes. Most of the fundamental innovation still needs to happen at the building block level. The customers still want high performance solutions, so you have to develop those blocks.

Sensors are the next part of the signal chain so we are investing heavily in them. Sensor and analogue fusion will be key to make it a more connected world.

Sensors for motion, medical, touch, light, gesturethose are the things we are seeing a lot of advances in. Acquiring SensorDynamics [in July] was our way of entering motion sensing and MEMS. Developing it ourselves would have taken too long.

We are beginning to see products sampled in this technology now. Customers are telling us they are the smallest ones they see and the most accurate. The combination of motion sensing and a gyro turns out to be very powerful.

We have worked on optical sensors, and we developed some breakthroughs in gesture sensors that are now in the Samsung Galaxy S4 phones.

In the future we see more medical sensors coming in to smartphones. We have most of the fundamental technologies we need. What's missing depends on what you want to measure in medical. We have heart rate and blood pressure sensors but not glucose meters for example.

On Samsung, Intel and Qualcomm

EE Times: Wall Street is worried that 20 per cent of your business is now in Samsung phones, and you risk the fate TI faced with Nokia.

Doluca: If you have a growth mentality you cannot ignore this mobility market. Because of the pace of the market a lot of the new technology gets invented for that market first and we see we can proliferate it to other markets, so it's a growth and a tech driver. We made a strategic decision six years ago that we have to be in mobile but it comes with risk and it keeps us on our toes.

The nature of that market is there are two big winners now. Our strategy is to win more of the customers. With our largest customer we want to diversity our base. We are designed in with power and now some sensor products with Samsung and we want to diversify that base.

We have good mobile products in MEMS with no revenue yet, so that is big potential, and we have interesting tech in audio but the revenues are not as strong yet.

EE Times: What do you think about Intel designing a voltage regulator into Haswell, essentially eliminating what has been a $300+ million market?

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