While Texas Instruments remains committed to growing its wireless and DSP businesses, analog has become the key focus as the company strives for 55 percent gross margins and 30 percent operating profit in its overall semiconductor operations. At the company’s analysts meeting last week, CEO Rich Templeton declared that “analog is the core financial engine for TI.”
The Dallas-based company is the world’s largest analog IC vendor, thanks in part to acquisitions, including Benchmarq, Burr-Brown, Unitrode and more recently, Chipcon. TI has a 13 percent share of a $35 billion analog market that is “highly diversified,” Templeton said, with a goal of raising that to a 20 percent share.
As TI turns more of the core digital transistor development over to foundries, the company is moving to add more people and money to its four distinct analog process flows. In analog products, high-precision inductors, capacitors, and resistors are needed, and transistors with good linearity and noise metrics. The goal is to sharpen TI’s ability to compete with Analog Devices Inc., Freescale, Linear, Maxim, National, STMicro and other analog vendors which develop their own analog processes.
By reducing the head count for digital CMOS process development, TI is shifting people to analog, doubling the head count in analog process development. Also, equipment from the 200-mm mothballed Kilby fab, for example, is being shifted to TI’s analog fabs in Dallas, Germany, and Japan, to improve time to market.
TI divides its analog business into high-performance analog and high-volume analog products, the latter including low-cost custom designs that go into printers, air bags, and other consumer products. (see a presentation by Gregg Lowe, senior vice president of analog, at http://www.ti.com/corp/docs/investor/analyst2007/lowe/slide1.shtml.)
The high-performance analog unit includes amplifiers, data converters (analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog), interface ICs, and power management products.
Nick Hassan, a manager in the interface devices group, said TI is bringing up a new process with improved on-chip capacitors and digital isolators, providing better magnetic immunity.
Barry Papermaster, a manager in the power management, said TI tripled its PM business in four years, largely due to growth in portable devices including battery ICs which provide charging, monitoring, and protection functions. Power management is getting complex, said Papermaster. “A notebook computer can have 11 different voltages, a (server) blade 18, and a cellphone 14.”
The big foundries are developing their own analog processes, particularly for the rapidly growing power management space. However, Lou Hutter, a TI fellow who works on analog process development, said TSMC and others “take an older CMOS process and adapt it to higher voltages. We have not seen much process differentiation or high-precision capacitors or resistors. That takes years and specialized skills,” he said.