When Rhode was asked by a financial analyst whether September’s
anticipated quarterly growth is due to unit-base growth or an average
selling price increase, Cirrus Logic’s CEO responded that the question
is a sensitive one to answer -- because it relates to its “customers.”
Rhode said, “It’s a little bit of all.”
Further, when asked about
the overall tablet market trend in Q3, Rhode declined to comment,
leaving the impression that he’d been warned not to tip off Apple’s
upcoming product (iPhone 5 or iPad mini) in Q3.
The Cirrus Logic
CEO was also quizzed about the state of the company’s overall audio chip
business “except for the biggest customer.” Rhode said the audio
business for the broad consumer market had “a decent Q1” and expects
reasonable demand in the second half of this year. Pressed further if
the consumer market in general for the third quarter is dire, Rhode
pointed out that Cirrus Logic’s chip business except for the biggest
company is rather small, implying that it’s not big enough to deduct the
overall industry trend. “But it doesn’t look bad either,” he added.
Cirrus Logic’s behavior -- jealously guarding the name of its biggest
customer -- and the financial community compliance strikes an odd note,
especially since Cirrus Logic on Monday filed Form 10-Q with the SEC. In
the form, it reported: “We had one end customer, Apple Inc. that
purchased through multiple contract manufacturers and represented
approximately 59 percent and 53 percent of the Company's total sales for
the first quarter of fiscal years 2013 and 2012, respectively.”
an SEC filing make this hip-to-hip relationship pretty obvious?
of course, Apple is famous for its almost totalitarian approach to
non-disclosure agreements. One chip company on Apple’s 2011 Suppliers list released earlier this year
said, “At my company, practically one third of our entire employees were
asked to sign the NDA by Apple.”
It’s understandable that a
component supplier shouldn’t be out there pre-announcing its customer’s
product. But the gag order against uttering the magic word “Apple” all
during the conference call with financial analysts was awkward at best
and at worst, outright Orwellian. It undercuts the credibility of
detracted from the company’s otherwise forthright business discussions.
Rhode, meanwhile, tried to highlight the company’s efforts
to broaden its customer base and expand its business.
notable for Cirrus Logic’s recent quarter is the design win in Philips’
A19 LED light bulbs. (A19 is a type of light bulbs most commonly found
today in the United States. It has a standard medium base and can screw
into a variety of sockets.)
Philips A19 LED light offers a fully
dimmable LED alternative to a standard light bulb and provides a soft
white light by using Cirrus Logic’s LED controllers.
entered the LED market in March 2012 with the first product in its LED
controllers, focused on solving dimmer compatibility issues. Fundamental
to Cirrus Logic's LED product family is the company's digital
technology, called TruDim, consisting of interface algorithms, LED
driver topologies and system architectures. Cirrus Logic claims that
TruDim digital intelligence allows the controller to identify the type
of dimmer in use and adapt its dimmer compatibility algorithm to provide
smooth dimming in much the same way the consumer has come to expect
from decades of using incandescent light bulbs.
near 100 percent compatibility with the world's installed base of
dimmers, the company’s newest CS163X family provides “two-channel LED
color mixing capabilities,” according to Rhode. The company claims that
it allows LED bulb manufacturers to more efficiently create warm,
natural light quality while also lowering the cost barrier for
two-channel LED retrofit bulbs.
I remember back in 1995, Cirrus was talking very big and touting themselves as the next $1 billion semiconductor company. Their stock went over $60 that Spring before ending the year around $20. It basically spent the next ten or so years declining all the way to $4 and that was before further losses during the 2008/2009 crash. On the good side, Jason Rhode was still toiling at UMD during that period.
We are all speculating but I'm sure both Apple and Cirrus are working hard to not to overly dependent on each other when at the same time they are in a hard embrace. They both know the rules of the market, I hope Cirrus has got parallel design teams churning out other products which can then replace with Apple's when and if they eventually divorce. In that case, IMO, they would see a dip for some time but should still hold on well.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.