Sometimes, the outpouring of new ICs seems mostly like a deluge of pretty much the same parts, albeit with "more and faster" attributes in the form of more memory, more I/O, faster clocks, and so on, or perhaps slight enhancements in specifications. But that's not the case in the world of power-management and regulator ICs, that's for sure.
Unlike components which strive to be solutions to a somewhat broad class of problems, or parts which have achieved amazingly widespread use and longevity (think of basic LDOs or the ubiquitous 2N2222 transistor), most of the power-related ICs that I see are carefully targeted at well-defined application niches. They often have small but essential features and functions added, which make them a really good fit while solving a circuit/system designer's nasty problem. (Marketers often call these parts "ideal," but no part is ideal; I prefer to think of them as "well suited.")
As a result, we have literally thousands of power-control ICs to choose from -- and sometimes, having so many to look at can be overwhelming. But if you work your way through the various selection guides and parameter/specification tables, you'll see there is a reasonably justified rationale for almost each one. Some recent introductions make the case.
For example, look at the LT3795110V LED DC/DC converter and dimming controller from Linear Technology Corp. Sure, it's efficient, but that itself is not newsworthy these days. What makes this IC especially application friendly is that it adds the features you'd want in such situations, such as robust short-circuit protection and user-selectable spread-spectrum modulation to spread radiated energy and reduce EMI compliance issues and complaints (I have some LED and CFL lamps at home that are high-performance wideband EMI sources).
Then there's an IC from Texas Instruments that is somewhat similar to the LTC part at first glance, yet is actually quite different, the TPS92690. This DC/DC LED driver also has adjustable switching frequency to minimize EMI, but it is designed for automotive headlamps and illumination, so it has nothing to do with the AC line, and instead operates from 4.5 to 75.0-Vdc inputs. Further, it employs low-side current sensing, which is more compatible with some specialized LED power-driver topologies used in this application.
Targeting a very different situation, Microchip Technologies has new members in its UCS100X family of programmable USB port power controllers. Along with 12 W charging (2.5 A), the UCS100X supports active cables, such as the Apple Lightning connector. The UCS1002 device will automatically charge a wide variety of portable devices, including USB-IF BC1.2, YD/T-1591 (2009), most Apple and RIM units, and many others. It comes with nine preloaded charger emulation profiles to maximize compatibility coverage of these peripheral devices -- that's impressively thoughtful.
These are just a few recent examples; there are many more you could find and highlight. In each case, they are associated with the "power control" function, yet they are quite different in what they do. This diversity makes an engineering and selection challenge, but it is one that is worth the effort to solve. Ironically, it also makes the job of the various research organizations that estimate the market size and changes for these types of ICs very foggy and fuzzy, so to speak.
Have you seen any power control and management ICs lately that really seemed innovative with clever features and functions, rather than just having better specifications or improved efficiency?