Speaking at the launch of Texas Instruments’ new Silicon Valley labs on Tuesday (March 13), TI executives rallied to deliver one clear message: that true innovation, at its core, would always be a disruptive force, and that TI was committed to playing a big part in both creating and harnessing that destruction.
It was an interesting message from a company deemed to be among the more conservative in the technology industry. But with a proven track record of patents in its wake, TI has been innovating, in one way or another, for well over 50 years.
“Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum or on an island,” noted Greg Lowe, TI’s senior vice president of analog.“It takes a great deal of collaboration with universities, institutes, organizations, and Silicon Valley is a hotbed of innovation,” he added.
While the Valley certainly is an incubator for some of the more cutting edge tech projects today, what TI-- in its steady, level-headed way—hopes to bring to the table is more of a holistic, system level approach to research and development.
“Our goals at TI are quite simplistic,” said Lowe, noting that, first and foremost, the firm wanted to grow its business. Looking beyond that simple fact, however, Lowe admitted that in today’s fast-paced world of disruptive innovation, everything comes down to how to make a difference. “We want to make that difference in how and what we research,” he said.
Part of that, of course, comes from the team up that resulted from the acquisition of National Semiconductor last year, which Lowe maintains gives a stronger foundation to the engineers from both companies looking to continue innovating in analog “in ways we can just imagine.”
The firm also announced several initiatives with local universities, which Lowe said he sincerely hoped would help engineering students build a solid foundation in analog and reignite a passion for hardware engineering, as much of the glamor slipped away into the software side of the business.
“We’re even more committed to play a big part in the Valley,” added Ahmad Baha, TI’s CTO of analog. Bahai said he believes that now is the most exciting time to be in the electronics business.
“Even grandmas today are so comfortable using their iPhones, people aren’t afraid of embracing new technologies,” he said, noting that this had really added impetus to TI’s drive to become even more disruptive.
“We need disruptive innovation to drive this train or we’re going to hit a brick wall,” he said, adding that this was especially important on the semiconductor and hardware side of the business. “The bedrock of technology, the hardware side, is just not attracting top talent anymore,” he said, citing stats to show that the average return on investment from software is about 4.7x, while ROI from hardware is a rather paltrier 1.2x.
“We’re losing talent to software and apps,” said Bahai, reminding the engineers in the room that innovation was no longer simply about chasing Moore’s Law, but about pushing beyond it to improve overall efficiency and power of the plethora of new devices hitting the market.
“Most devices are not really benefitting from scaling,” said Bahai, noting that this is where he would like to see more disruptive innovation from Texas Instruments engineers.
Software is easier to "finish". If it doesn't work, you ship it, and next release it's either a feature where they turn it on after you fixed it, or it's a bug fix if it's something that is necessary, even if it is half-baked.
Hardware HAS to work, or there's a warranty claim or recall. Silicon is the ultimate extreme...it can't be patched with mod wires (easily).
Slackers go into software, perfectionists do hardware - it's ALWAYS been that way.
Innovation is about creation (not only passion). It seems doubtful that meaningful creators take jobs that are not of their interest. Creative endeavors have to come from within the individual and no external factors can generate that personally intense, generation-creation process. The 'best' university in the world will quash and crush it in my opinion, but my opinion means nothing.
Mr.Lowe wants to reignite passion for hardware. I was doing Professor and HOD dept of ECE at Sona College of Technology from yr 2000 to yr 2005 five years. One of the best engineering college in India. With this experience i state that all the students are interested to do in hardware embedded and other soft wares related to their respective hardware projects. No re ignition is required. Rather where do they find hard ware jobs for their interest? Limited scope for hardware. My faculty taught from circuits to microwaves and almost 30 electronics and communication subjects for 3 years.Finally 99 percent of them land on software jobs making all our teachings going into useless.This is one of the major reason i came off my teaching profession. So i am of the big opinion that hardware teaching to be specialized and those learn them to be absorbed in to the same stream.
Yes indeed exciting for interns. TI is making good use of the former National Semiconductor facility: http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4238071/Texas-Instruments-opens-lab-for-mixed-signal--analog
I liked the phrase "We do what we do because it's fun, and it's even more fun it it's important".
I didn't consider the gaming field a good place to invest time and effort but now that I read it it would seems logical. But I think now that mobile computing is redefining the market, the new hardware ideas should be for that... mobile. Also medical will get into a new wave... though i think is not exactly medical applications but Home medical applications. With Bluetooth Low Energy and what the Bluetooth SIG is coming up with, and with people aging and becoming more aware and responsible for their health, the Home Medical applications will become more and more popular.
This are exciting times in which we're living. don't you think?
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.