SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The new Renesas Electronics Corp. has outlined its microcontroller (MCU) roadmap, disclosing that it plans to blanket the market with a plethora of products based on its new architecture.
The question is whether or not its competitors are worried amid an upturn in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit MCU markets. At least on the surface, Renesas’ rivals are not shaking in their boots, but they are keeping a close eye on the newly-formed upstart. Completing a merger transaction between Japan’s NEC Electronics Corp. and Renesas Technology Corp., the new combined entity--Renesas Electronics--commenced business operations on April 1.
Renesas (Tokyo), the world’s leading supplier of MCUs in terms of share, will continue to develop and support its various and incompatible MCU lines. But the company plans to put its weight--and R&D dollars--behind the previously-announced RX architecture.
Over the next year or so, the company will launch no less than 170 versions of its RX MCU line, a 32-bit, 90-nm family based on a complex instruction set computer (CISC) architecture. Last year, Renesas made a somewhat subdued launch of the RX, which is said to outperform competitive products from ARM, Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, MIPS, NXP, ST, TI, and others.
Still, the market is worried about the fallout between Renesas and NEC Electronics, at least according to competitors. At last count, the combined entity will sell and support no less than 16 separate MCU lines, including 4-, 8-, 16- and 32-bit products.
''Customers are concerned’’ whether or not the combined Renesas entity will support the legacy MCU lines, said Steve Sanghi, president and CEO of MCU rival Microchip Technology Inc. To cut support costs and simplify its portfolio, Sanghi contends that the Japanese company must ''eliminate some (MCU) architectures.’’
Neil Rice, technical marketing manager for the Microcontroller Business Unit at another rival, Atmel Corp., agreed. ''I can’t see how (Renesas) can support all of these architectures,’’ Rice said.
Dan Mahoney, president and CEO of Renesas' U.S. unit, Renesas Electronics America Inc., dismissed the notion that the company’s MCU customers are worried. “I don’t see that,’’ Mahoney said. ''I see that our competitors are creating FUD’’ (fear, uncertain and doubt) in the market.
In a recent interview, Mahoney also added that the new Renesas will continue to develop and support all MCU lines from the former Renesas and NEC Electronics entities.
Clearly, the R&D and investment are shifting towards the RX, said Ritesh Tyagi, director of MCU product marking at Renesas Electronics America. Regarding the other MCU lines from the company, ''as long as customers buy them, we will support them,’’ Tyagi added.
One analyst believes the new Renesas faces some major challenges on the MCU and other fronts. Besides MCUs, Renesas is also focusing on two other areas: analog/power devices and system LSIs.
''I literally asked a couple of MCU competitors about the renewed Renesas and they were unconcerned,’’ said Tom Starnes, an analyst with Objective-Analysis. ''They didn't like that there would be a new larger (vendor) to overcome for them to rise in the rankings tables, but they don't fear losing business.''
Clearly, Renesas' rivals don't want to pump up the Japanese firm. ''On the other hand, what would you think competitors would say: 'Damn, that new Renesas is going to cream us or we've had a tiger team working on a defense for six months,' '' the analyst said.
There are other issues beyond MPUs. ''I have previously given a position that the (new) Renesas will have difficulty working with the maze of similar and overlapping products, organization, and resources,’’ Starnes said. ''I don't know that the current Renesas hasn't shown the sort of pruning that other chip vendors have gone through.’’