| PARIS — Texas Instruments Inc.'s boss is betting the company's future on the strength of its advanced CMOS process technology and analog expertise rather than seeking alliances with other chip vendors. |
Richard Templeton, CEO of Dallas-based chip maker, said during a visit here on Tuesday (Sept. 27) that TI and rival Intel Corp. are among the few IC manufacturers with the process technology, circuit and system design capabilities to provide a broad product lineup.
Templeton, a no-nonsense ex-engineer, described TI as a “conservative company," stressing that the company's star shouldn’t be its CEO, but its customers and products.
“Let the facts speak themselves,” said Templeton. “We are the first ones to have shipped 100 million [chip]units based on the 90-nanometer process node.”
TI’s conviction to go it alone in the development of next-generation semiconductor technology is driven by the company’s faith in its in-house R&D capabilities.
"Technology development is not a team sport,” said Templeton. “Many alliances are formed not out of strength. They often come together out of [partners'] weaknesses.” He added, “Worst of all, alliances often force their partners to work on negotiated specs and negotiated parameters. That will slow you down.”
Chip industry consolidation is not happening, either, in Templeton’s view. But the gap between “those who have [intellectual property]” and “those who have not” is widening.
Prior to the technology bust of the late 1990’s, there were as many as nine semiconductor companies with advanced CMOS process technologies. “Today we only have a handful of players, including Intel, TI, IBM, STMicroelectronics’ consortium with Philips Semiconductors and Freescale and "one or two Japanese” companies, he said.
Many chip companies are scaling back operations or becoming smaller and more specialized, according to Templeton. Meanwhile, "a growing number of fabless chip companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom and Marvell Technology are rising” to go after selective markets, he said.
The TI chief said his company is positioned to leverage its IP and expertise in DSPs, microprocessors, system-on-chip and mixed signal in various products, including wireless, broadband, digital light projection, audio and video. “There is no other semiconductor company with such a broad product lineup,” Templeton claimed.
If and how TI will effectively compete against low-cost fabless vendors in specific market segments is an entirely different matter. TI is betting heavily on its recently introduced DaVinci video platform as a shot in the arm for its DSP technology.
DaVinci’s prognosis, based on past TI performance, is mixed. On the one hand, TI failed to capture the PC boom. On the other, the company targeted the cellphone market early on, achieving runaway success with its DSP technology in the mobile handset market. TI is rolling out DaVinci to capture the digital video market.
But the fickle consumer electronics market is making it difficult for experienced system companies to predict, much less build, the next big thing. Customers are demanding technologies that can scale — from a set-top to a portable, or, from a low- to high-end product, according to Templeton.
Platform builders must be able to turn on a dime, the TI executive added. For example, if a customer with an existing product targeted for a set top suddenly needs a portable version, the platform it runs on will lack performance, consume too much power and cost too much.
That’s where DaVinci comes in, Templeton said.
While acknowledging there is no specific “technology breakthrough” underlying DaVinci, Templeton insisted TI is “already big” in digital video. Where DaVinci differs from previous TI solutions is that "all the innovations are coming together” on this platform. They include higher performance, lower power with built-in flexibility to integrate peripherals in a system-on-chip combined with a variety of software running on a DSP.