GARDEN GROVE, Calif.—Renesas Electronics Corp. is likely to introduce its first mixed-signal microcontrollers featuring both analog and digital circuits within the next two years, according to the company's top executive.
"We see the potential applications" of mixed-signal microcontrollers, Yasushi Akao, president and representative director of Renesas, in an interview this week at Renesas' Devcon developer event here. Akao said that two years ago Renesas began developing a specific analog process technology that is compatible with the process technology that the company uses for microcontrollers so as it enable the compatibility of design blocks, such as IP and libraries, between the two.
"I believe that we are well prepared," said Akao, adding that the time had come to develop a real product based on the technology. Akao did not say what specific analog circuitry would be integrated into the microcontrollers.
Akao said Renesas has an internal project known as AMP—for analog-microcontroller promotion—working to develop a mixed-signal microcontroller. Asked is such a product would be available from Renesas within two years, Akao said it would probably be sooner than that.
Akao and Daniel Mahoney, president and CEO of Renesas' U.S. subsidiary, said customers have shown interest in a mixed-signal MCU.
"I would characterize it as strong interest that is ready to become demand when the solutions are available," Mahoney said. "It reduces the [bill of materials] cost and reduces the footprint, so they can save space and money and probably time."
Adib Ghubril, an analyst who follows microcontrollers at Gartner Inc., said that while there are some mixed-signal microcontrollersl available on the market today, the companies who have been the most aggressive are not the leading microcontroller vendors.
Ghubril said he believes Renesas will bring out a mixed-signal microcontroller soon and that, with the company's technology portfolio—including analog products—it could be an area of leadership for Renesas. "What Renesas is all about is architecture," Ghubril said.
Yasushi Akao, president and representative director at Renesas Electronics Corp., speaks at the company's developers' forum Tuesday.
According to Tom Starnes, an analyst at market research firm Objective Analysis, companies like Microchip Technology Inc. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. offer microcontrollers that incorporate some analog circuits. They tend to be slower than the leading-edge microcontrollers because of the older process technology used for analog circuits, he said.
"When you get to where you are putting a lot of analog circuits on the device, it's really hard to get 100-megahertz speeds, let alone multiples of that," Starnes said.
Starnes noted that Silicon Laboratories Inc. also aggressively markets mixed-signal microcontrollers, which he described as successful microcontroller with strong analog capability.
Texas Instruments Inc. has also marketed products it described as mixed-signal microcontrollers.
This is interesting when compared to the recent Velocity Lab announcement. http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-products/embedded-tools/4209557/-Renesas--Velocity-Lab-aims-to-speed-embedded-systems-development
It seems to me that Renesas realizes the eco-system for these types of solutions will be critical and is already showing they are serious about giving customers a real solution- not just slapping some analog onto an existing MCU.
Mixed signal SOCs have been around for quite some time now. It is a good move by Renesas to offer mixed signal micro-controllers. I beileve Analog blocks put some constraint on the geometry . IN what geometry Renesas plans to offer these micro-controllers?
"Better late than never" is what I'd like to comment on this. Renesas, though a market leader ( in terms of share ) in the microcontroller market, has made a late entry into the mixed-signal segment of this business.
Adding to this fact is the latency of another 2 years ( well, almost ) before the part can be used by the user.
If you look at Silabs or Microchip, I find them more aggressive in this market. Further, if you also look at their capability in delivering discreet analog components, then they are way ahead than most of their peers.
I like the strategy adopted by Microchip in this market - supply the part(s), augment the same with useful software, hardware & other utilities. Something that others should learn...
@prabhakar_deosthali- I'm sorry to say I don't know about the process geometry they plan to use. I'm not sure they've even made those decisions, though I did get the sense that this project was pretty far along. I asked if products would be available within two years, and I got the sense from the answer that it could be much sooner than that. If you look at Renesas' MCU roadmap, they are planning some pretty aggressive shrinks over the next couple of years, including skipping two nodes in some cases to move to 40-nm. But my understanding is that, as you say, analog blocks put significant constraints on the geometry that can be employed.