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Japan's Megachips eyes sensor hubs for IoT devices

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT? wearables? sensor hub? ASIC?

3. Full turnkey service

Thanks to the Kawasaki-Microelectronics acquisition, Megachips is now officially a full-service chip vendor. Megachips, whose technical expertise includes imaging and telecommunications, is "the first Japanese chip vendor who has figured out what it takes to be a 'turnkey' chip company for big-system vendors," observed one Japanese source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In his view, just as MediaTek knows how to handhold its system customers from chips to software and applications, Megachips has a reputation for diligent customer support.

Having always worked closely with system vendors, Megachips' strength in chip design is its thorough knowledge of "systems." The company, however, takes pride that it was never a "design team for hire."

Takata said, "One of the hardest things in designing chips is a product definition." The company "works with" its customers and designs ASICs for them. In contrast, a Japanese system company, historically, just tells its chip division, "Make this." The chip division replied, without questioning, "We'll do our best."

Full turnkey service

As a fabless, Megachips always focused on the front-end of ASIC designs. "Our strength is designing and developing algorithms and architectures on top of system LSIs," said Takata. What Megachips lacked, however, is the back-end business. Such a process was traditionally outsourced to Japanese IDMs like NEC or Renesas, for example.

Megachips' CEO called the acquisition of Kawaski Microelectronics (K-Micro) "complementary," because "K-Micro brought to us their back-end business." He also noted that K-Micro already has people and offices worldwide including the US, China, Taiwan and India. In contrast, Megachips had none.

But there appears to be another dimension to the K-Micro acquisition. When Renesas Electronics began its exit from the ASIC business a few years ago, customers (who used Megachips for front-end design and Renesas for backend) started to freak out. They asked Megachips to offer a "full turnkey service" including chip design, process node selection, foundry arrangements and responsibility for assembly, testing and overall qualification. Megachips needed K-Micro to respond to these needs.

4. Future of DisplayPort

DisplayPort

As for the DisplayPort business acquired from ST, Megachips' Takata stressed that his company is no stranger to the display IC market.

Megachips holds a 60 per cent market share in the timing controller market for large display panels made in Taiwan and China (sans Korea). In the mobile display business, Megachips is aware that a timing controller is already getting integrated into a system driver IC.

Takata sees DisplayPort (and embedded DisplayPort) as critical for Megachips' future growth when it gets into smartphones, set-top boxes and TVs. In his view, HDMI won't be the only port in those devices.

As the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) is bringing DisplayPort to new USB Type-C connectors, Takata fully expects it to enable computers, tablets, smartphones, displays and docking stations to implement the new USB Type-C connector at both ends, while using the DisplayPort Standard over USB Type-C to transmit high-resolution A/V along with USB data and power.

Getting key talents like Alan Kobayashi, formerly with ST's DisplayPort team and elected Board Chair at VESA last May, was also important. Kobayashi is now a fellow and executive for R&D management for the DisplayPort Group at MegaChips Technology America.


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