PARIS – MediaTek’s bid to buy Mstar is likely to cement the supremacy of the combined power of the two Taiwan-based companies -- often described as the “M brothers” -- in the digital consumer market, at least for the next several years.
Today, MediaTek alone claims the global number one position in terms of market share in mobile phones, DVD/Blu-Ray players and optical disc drives. MediaTek is the runner-up -- after Mstar -- in digital TV, and holds the number three position in the broadband DSL market.
Move over, Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, ST-Ericsson, and Renesas Mobile.
Although it’s a stretch to compare MediaTek with Qualcomm in the mobile world, MediaTek has steadily risen, to the point where the company is getting the global digital consumer electronics market pretty much wrapped up.
Never underestimate Taiwan-based companies, thinking that they are just low-cost, me-too chip vendors. Those days are long gone.
The strength of MediaTek today lies in its ability to integrate software and hardware as a genuine turnkey solution for system OEMs, to an unprecedented extent. The MediaTek playbook has worked particularly well with a number of emerging handsets and DTV companies in China, allowing MediaTek to extend its reach.
A Renesas Mobile executive, during an interview with EE Times several months ago, marveled at MediaTek’s power to develop complete software to go with its own hardware. “By the time we showed up in China, all the good software engineers were already picked over by MediaTek,” he said.
As for the digital TV market, both MStar and MediaTek have used their proximity to China to build market share and dominate the global digital TV SoC market.
While MStar is said to have exploited its distribution network to gain design wins among a growing number of Chinese ODMs, MediaTek is viewed as being more selective. “They don’t work with everyone. They are much more careful about choosing their customers,” said a TV chip company’s executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.
MediaTek takes pride in its comprehensive customer support. “We give our customers not just reference designs. We offer them ‘total solutions’ from lower-level software, mass production to testing and validation,” crowed MediaTek President C.J. Hsieh during an interview with EE Times at the last Consumer Electronics show.
MediaTek is no stranger to the M&A world, either.
In fact, MediaTek’s aggressiveness in forming partnerships and for its acquisitions is often praised by industry analysts. One significant deal was 2008’s $350 million acquisition of Analog Devices Inc.’s baseband chip product lines, which not only strengthened MediaTek’s product line but also gave the company access to tier 1 handset makers.
Slightly off-topic, but totally relevant, is that MediaTek’s success has everything to do with the downfall of Nokia in recent years. Many industry observers blame Nokia for not catching onto the smartphone trend soon enough, or for not embracing Android. Regardless of these missteps, Nokia had already lost the battle in the feature phone market. It wasn’t the smartphone, but the featurephone that pushed Nokia to the brink.
And who won the battle?
While Nokia continued to insist on developing hardware/software-integrated solutions on its own, MediaTek, a mere chip vendor from Taiwan, leveraged an army of software developers in China and put together a well-integrated software/hardware turnkey solution for mobile handset vendors who make feature phones in China.
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