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Reboot steers Exar to industrial, networking markets

Posted: 26 May 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Exar? Louis DiNardo? iML? Stretch? analogue?

Application specificity is coming to analogue, mixed-signal and power just as it came to digital ICs 20 years ago. Do you agree and, if you do, what are the implications?

Yes. As the semiconductor industry matures things become more specific to the use case. Although some companies still seek out the building-block approach because it can provide volume across multiple applications.

So Linear [Linear Technology Corp.] will dominate the building block business and we need to provide a tailored solution. Power management is a prime example. Why jump in versus Linear, Intersil, On Semi, Maxim, Texas Instruments and China Inc. with 50 to 200 PMIC companies? We've seen a 3A synchronous regulator go from an ASP of $2 in 2001 to 25 cents today in China. So we provide a module with four channels, output caps and inductors all on a 12mm by 12mm module. This makes use of packaging knowledge to produce a specialised solution we can sell at $12.

You are fabless. Who do you use and what happens if foundry supply comes in to short supply?

Globalfoundries probably has the most mask sets followed by TSMC. We also deal with a Shanghai foundry called Silan [Hangzhou Silan Microelectronics Co. Ltd.]. We are shopping for a good high-voltage foundry.

As to difficulties of supply; I think it is more of an issue for smaller digital companies. For our suppliers on 0.13?m, 0.18?m, 0.25?m it hasn't seemed to be a problem. Of course we all go into periods when we're on allocation but those are temporary.

You benchmark sales by regions and Germany was responsible for 10 per cent of sales in the 2012 financial year. In the same year Europe excluding Germany was just 4 per cent and Japan 5 per cent. Is Europe excluding Germany falling behind a threshold of relevance?

We have about 13 or 14 per cent of our business in Europe. It isn't enough. This is an issue with our profile not with Europe's. My view was that we should put more effort into Germany and UK, Scandinavia but I have had a lot of push-back. I am being told not to overlook France and Italy.

What trends do you see across the industry? Do you believe in wearables and the Internet of Things?

IoT is interesting but we do tend to put labels on things that are hard to define but that are happening already.

What I do see is a proliferation of transducers and sensors of all kinds, in industrial, automotive and consumer. It's more than exponential, if that is possible. A few years ago only one or two companies provided ICs to perform signal conditioning on sensors, Analog Devices and Burr Brown. Now everything is being measured, digitized. That is the most significant trend; sensor conditioning and what you do with the data.

Exar is on the big data side with networking, and at the transducer end. I think we could be on the leading edge of a nice 10 to 15 year run.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times Europe

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