PORTLAND, Ore.—Silicon Laboratories Inc. recently unveiled its long-term strategy to dominate the timing chip market following its acquisition of MEMS oscillator maker Silicon Clocks and traditional timing chip maker SpectraLinear. Silicon Labs claims its timing business grew 70 percent in 2010, resulting in a $50 million is timing chip sales, and it forecasts growth in the high double-digits again in 2011.
"Our strategy is to grow market share in all segments—to become a one-stop-shop for timing and oscillator chips," said Mike Petrowski, general manager of timing products at Silicon Labs. "We entered the market at the high end and have pushed downward into associated markets, with over 100 high-volume low-cost devices from SpectraLinear, which filled out our portfolio."
Silicon Labs strategy is to boost its image by offering timing chip technologies unavailable elsewhere, such as its recently announced Si5374 and Si5375, which the company claims are the first single-chip timing chips to integrate four "any frequency" oscillators by virtue of its proprietary MultiSynth technology that uses fractional-frequency multipliers, as opposed to competitors who require that multi-frequency clocks be integer-multiples of each other. Silicon Labs also claims that its separate phase-locked loops (PLL) for each frequency provides 40 percent lower jitter than competitors.
"We are making the investments in innovations necessary to transform our company into the number one timing solution provider," said Petrowski. "To us, it's all about building a better mousetrap."
Silicon Labs has also created what the company calls FPGA of timing chips by allowing customers to design and order customized parts from its website. The configurable clock generators built with its online ClockBuilder Utilityare available as samples in just two weeks, which the company claims is 60 percent faster than mask-customized clocks.
Silicon Labs also claims that its timing chips use from 20-to-40 percent less power than competitors, have a 30 percent smaller footprint, and best-in-class electromagnetic interference (EMI) indices by virtue of configurable rise/fall times, output impedance, spread spectrum profiles, output skew as well as frequency.
Silicon Labs timing chips are used in a wide variety of electronic devices including smart phones, touchscreen tablets, digital cameras, printers, graphics cards, set-top boxes, high-definition television, network gateways and embedded systems including storage, blade servers, set-top boxes, industrial automation, medical and test equipment.
Silicon Labs is one of the few semiconductor makers I know who actually expanded during the recession. SiLabs expanded their product portfolio through acquisitions as well as by agressive technological R&D, such as their fractional multipliers and online customization tools. By growing their timing chip portfolio during the recession, now it is positioned to take the most advantage of a return to the current period of more normal growth.
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