Archive for July, 2011

MStar & Mediatek vying for Nokia’s 2G biz??

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

What happens when two local companies fight for the same pie? And when that pie has a component from a “once market leader, now floundering handset maker”? And when one of the pie contestants is also gnawing the market share of this “once market leader, now floundering handset maker”?

Well, speculations abound!

MStar and Mediatek,the two Taiwanese chip makers for mobile handsets are vying for Nokia’s 2G phones’ biz - a volume estimated to be around 285 million in 2013.

Mediatek made its prolific rise in handset chip biz by supplying chips to the shanzai/white box handset makers in China. By doing so, it eroded Nokia’s market share in that segment (of course, the other end of the spectrum was eroded by Apple, Samsung and the likes!)

MStar steered clear from this segment and has supplied customized chips to Samsung and LG for higher end mobile phones. Perhaps, these will steer Nokia’s biz towards them…

Lately Mediatek has been shedding it’s “shanzai market” tag and moving up the value chain – Spreadtrum may have a lot to do behind this move!

Interesting times ahead for these sparring compatriots!

Spreadtrum acquires Telegent - Deja-vu??

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Spreadtrum Communications, the fabless developer of baseband and RF chips recently announced its acquisition of Telegent Systems, a developer of software and silicon for the reception of live broadcast television signals.

While trolling the net, I saw this article that gives a quirky feeling of déjà vu. The article’s contents basically go on these lines….

In 2007, the US Wi-Fi provider and GPS manufacturer, SiRF bought Centrality, a company with navigation & multimedia experience. Later, SiRF itself got acquired by CSR. In hindsight, industry analysts viewed the Centrality purchase as a bad move.

Now the money/invested parties part …Centrality’s major investors included Walden International and it had a NEA (New Enterprises Association) principle on its BoD. An NEA principle was also on the SiRF’s board. Baseline appeared to be - sell the company to a public company and for enough cash that would return the VC capital and perhaps a large profit at the same time for the investors.

Move on to today…

Spreadtrum buys Telegent. Telegent shot into fame (and profits) with its analog broadcast TV. Since then, it moved to mixed signal and then to digital – a realm with intense price competition and very low margins.

Telegent’s investors include New Enterprise Associates and Walden International. Telegent’s CFO was once SiRF’s CFO. Spreadtrum has an NEA principle on Board….. you get the drift?

Will Spreadtrum do a SiRF???

Missing component in the local semiconductor eco-system

Friday, July 15th, 2011

An MoU was signed between Silterra and Might Meteor last week. It was basically about kicking off a training program under a wider umbrella of human capital enhancement. Being a part of the training program – and the fact that the MoU ceremony was held during the time I was there (!) – I got the opportunity to meet the top management involved from the two organizations as well as got a special guided tour of Silterra’s fab facilities.

For those who do not know - MIGHT-METEOR was established in February 2002 as a joint-venture company between Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and Multimedia Technology Enhancement Operations (METEOR) – a consortium of 11 public universities in Malaysia. It is directly under PM Ministry.

I have always appreciated the efforts (and the funds) put in by the various government entities to grow and catalyse the semiconductor and other electronics biz in the country – I get a big chunk of my training biz from there! But jokes aside, I have seen a consistent commendable effort being put in this direction over the last few years that I’ve been involved.

The country is more known for the packaging and testing parts of the semicon supply chain. Yes, there are chips and system design houses but their number and biz is smaller compared to the biz brought about the A&T and contract manufacturing facilities. Penang’s Bayan Lepas area is the industrial hub for several big names – Intel, Altera, Agilent, Motorola, Huawei, Fairchild, Renesas and others. Kulim, in the neighbouring state of Kedah is another sprawling area with fabs, A&T as well as offices of contract manufacturing companies like Celestica etc. Capital city KL has a few design houses as well as MIMOS.

During my various stints in the Bayan Lepas complex, I have attended a few IEEE talks too, courtesy the local IEEE chapter. These events mostly lasted no more than a couple of hours, after work, and did attract a decent size crowd – a good platform to share insights as well as network. The local Centre of Excellence in Electronics also holds regular technical talks. Different government-industry-universities consortia exist. Most of the components of a thriving semicon eco-system exist. What is missing though, especially for a country moving to high income, innovation economy is the buzz and the high energy that is usually associated with such an eco-system – making it vibrant. The one thing that intrigues me is that in spite of the ingredients, the region (Penang, Kulim) lacks any big annual semiconductor event. An event where industry/govt/academia leaders can share their insights, members of the eco-system can network, biz mapping be done etc. Neighbouring Singapore (where I am based) has regular shows like SEMICON, CommunicAsia, Electronics Fair, MIDAS Semicon Show (now SSIA semiconductor show) etc.

Would be great to have something on the above lines there….!