There’s nothing subliminal about Renesas’s strategy: With an emphasis on
automotive, cloud computing and social infrastructure and ‘green’
industries, it is aggressively out to influence the influencers - --
those 80% of design decision makers that reside outside of Japan,
primarily in America.
But don’t narrow your filters too much just yet: based on the
discussions, technology and design activity on display at DevCon this
week, from smart energy, wireless, sensors, touch control, displays and
haptic feedback, to development kits, books, contract manufacturers and
other tools to help you get started, this is a message you may want to
Speaking at the opening keynote on Monday, Dan Mahoney, Renesas’s
president and CEO, said that the overarching strategy is, “to develop
system-level solutions for target market segments,” and to that end it
is marshalling its sales, development, marketing and distribution
“Sixty seven percent of our staff is marketing, application engineers
and development engineers,” he said. Pinpointing distribution and a
sharp focus on “the long tail”, he added that 80 percent of the
company’s business comes from 32 customers in the U.S. “We want to
replace that with thousands of longtail customers in the U.S.,” and to
help with that the company has cut its distribution channels from 10 to
four, “for focus,” he added.
That focus and depth is epitomized, in many ways, by the company’s
deepening partnership with the likes of Avnet and Arrow, partnerships
that dovetail nicely with the company’s surging emphasis on global
support and what could be termed point-of-load execution. “Customers can
now access a seamless distribution channel wherever they operate,” he
In the context of cloud computing, Mahoney also went out of his way to
talk up the Renesas purchase of Nokia’s wireless modem division.
“This acquisition will make connectivity our middle name,” he said.
Technology to support strategy
To support the strategy, the company is relying, among other things,
upon its strength in microcontrollers, coupled with a renewed emphasis
on analog and power. While Tad Keeley, a senior director at Renesas,
acknowledges analog and power may have taken a back seat relative to
microcontrollers, that’s about to change. For more on Renesas’s push
in this area, see Dylan McGrath’s report:Renesas eyes growth in analog ICs.
In the meantime, the microcontroller group is not standing still and
Renesas believes overall reliability and support will be its calling
card. For example, in the case of the V850, Mahoney said the company has
moved from measuring failure rates in parts per million, to parts per
billion. “To capture the vanishing failure rates,” he said.
This reliability factor cannot be underestimated as Renesas prepares to
put the squeeze on Freescale, which dominates in automotive-based MCU
applications, especially under the hood. It is also banking on its MONOS
memory technology, vs. SST-based flash, as a differentiator in terms of
scalability, speed and power consumption, according to Jim Trent, vice
president of Renesas’s automotive business unit.
To underscore its microcontroller expertise, the company used DevCon to
talk up the RX architecture that it announced nine months ago, while
also announcing a new site to help designers select the right MCU and
get the necessary community and technical support. For more on that, and
its possible implications, see: Renesas simplifies MCU selection: What now for independents?
According to Ritesh Tyagi, Renesas’s director of MCU products and
solutions marketing, the new RX MCU platform enables 20 to 30%
improvement in processing efficiency for the same code. In many ways, he
said, it’s not so much about power as how fast it can execute (though
the two are clearly related.)
Biz plus buzz = success
While Renesas is clearly intent on using DevCon to clarify its business
and technology plans, it didn’t waste the chance to combine biz with
buzz: The show floor was bopping with innovation that not only served to
underscore its commitment to technology, but also its mantra that
support for the ecosystem was paramount.
Support: Micriµm’s table was standing room
only, and not just because it was next to the food. It announced a new
edition of its muC/OS-III book with 200 new pages devoted to the Renesas
Touch Control: Move over CapSense! (Atmel).
Renesas showed off its capacitive touch control technology that it
licensed from Omron and is now implemented as a dedicated Sensor Control
Unit embedded in its MCUs. The SCU is ‘just another peripheral’ but
off-loads the touch processing from the MCU, to enable to either go into
sleep mode or do other tasks.
Touch Feedback (haptics): Immersion Corporation
showcased its haptic-feedback TouchSense 2000 platform. If you haven’t
seen it (or touched it), it’s just plain cool! It uses a single
vibrating motor to provide the feedback, but the trick is to distribute
the vibration evenly across all the keys. A good analogy might be the
even distribution of light for a backlit display from a point source
like an LED. The $1,300 Libretto W100 uses the technology.
Smart Energy: Renesas put on a full-fledged
home-automation and smart energy scaled-down model display, complete
with dolls. One key point about its approach to smart meter architecture
is that the metering itself should be treated separately. The rest of
the system is where the MCU comes in, controlling the communications,
memory and of course security. All three are constantly in flux and are
where differentiation truly resides for the OEM.
Wireless: Redpine Signals (why doesn’t Renesas
just buy them already?) was showing of a new starter kit combining
802.11n Wi-Fi with Renesas’s R8/RXN MCUs.
Renesas may look after 32 main customers and add 320 more. However, will they help freelance small scale designers? Will they be equally responsive to them in providing with quick samples and other low cost development tools? Their pioneering designs do significantly contribute to overall sales of company. Sometime company do announces new strategies, however, when you call actual applications and marketing engineers, you get luke warm response and as designer you go back to your original vendors with much more reliable support. I wish Renesas does put all efforts to support their announcement and we will eagerly watch for results in due course.
Renesas put on a good conference and is really coming out of the NEC merger and integration stage with strategy and techno guns blazing.
I was looking for more on MEMS in general, and was a bit disappointed that displays were focused on 3-D. While it's definitely intriguing, I'm not a huge fan of 3-D just yet, in terms of the user experience. The big bottleneck remains in mobiles where displaying the available information, especially with 3G proliferating, is problematic. So there's more potential in getting mobile devices to connect to any locally available display or monitor, as well as in flexible, rollout displays.
Just some quick takeaways. Overall, Renesas seems to have a good plan, but the ability to influence and support designers outside Japan -- specifically in the U.S. -- is clearly critical here.