It is no secret that portable electronic devices will continue to become more sophisticated. Cell phones, for example, have become highly integrated, bringing together all kinds of functions, ranging from cameras and music players, to different ways of communicating, and various Internet-based connections.
In all of these evolving electronic devices, and in cell phones especially, these new functions that are becoming so much in demand, require different and more advanced components in order to supply and control power. Major considerations include the reduction of components packaging according to smaller application form factors, and prolonging battery life according to higher application power requirements.
The power management market is booming due to the high growth seen in portables, mostly including cell phones and notebook computers. Semiconductor manufacturers have recognized and seized the great opportunities in power management. The most successful companies have been able to focus on particular markets, and then have been able to keep pace by continuing to innovate in those areas.
Power management includes products, both integrated and discrete, that deliver or monitor the right amount of power required by all of the other circuits within electronic equipment or systems. Analog power management is a fast growing segment of the overall power management market. Higher consuming applications for analog power management would include PCs, including notebooks and desktops, cell phones, and mobile consumer devices like digital cameras, gaming devices, and Mp3 players.
Analog power management constitutes 33 percent of the overall $16.6 billion power management market. This is up from only 20 percent back in 1998. Analog power management market includes linear regulators, switching regulators, voltage references, and battery management circuits. The largest revenue market is switching regulators, followed closely by linear regulators. In terms of units shipped, linear regulators outnumber switching regulators by more than 2 to 1.
Consumption of analog power ICs in the communications sector has been growing faster relative to other end-market segments, and it is now the largest market for analog power ICs. Databeans' 2004 revenue value for communications analog power ICs was $1.9 billion, amounting to 33 percent of the total global revenue for all analog power ICs.
Revenue generated by the communications segment is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent over the next five years, outperforming all other segments in terms of contributing toward global analog power revenue.
The cell phone market is huge for analog communications ICs and for power ICs in particular. Databeans predicts that total handset shipments will approach 800 million units by the end of 2005. This consumption market is expected to reach a value of $4 billion by 2010.
Worldwide Communications Analog Power IC Revenue Forecast
Source: Databeans Estimates
The computer segment is now the second largest consumption market for all categories of analog power ICs with an estimated 22 percent share. DC/DC converters are used in power supplies and in LCD panels. And regulators, always included among the many analog ICs found on a typical computer motherboard, adjust and deliver power to the other devices in the system. The increasing use of mobile computing and connected devices is fueling the battery management market, as charge management ICs are found on the battery packs used in such devices.
Notebook PCs have become the preferred form factor for many home and small-business users. Now there are more applications to attract consumers, and also prices have dropped considerably, such that many can afford entry-level models. Growth in notebook sales has resulted in a surge of demand for wireless-networking equipment, as many home users now have more than one PC.
The highest growth markets right now in the consumer sector are digital televisions, digital video recorders, portable multimedia devices, and digital camcorders and cameras.
Consumer electronics demand has traditionally relied upon replacement cycles to drive new product sales, and most new technologies do take time to be adopted, due to availability of content, price, legacy content investment, and personal preferences. However, with an the increasing supply of digital content, consumers are spending more for the devices required to enjoy the latest in digital entertainment and convenience.
The largest application markets for analog power ICs in the consumer market are portable digital devices, such as cameras and audio players, accounting for about 41 percent of total consumer analog power IC revenue.
The Region To Watch
China has been for a while the number one consumer of wireless handsets and the number two consumer of computers worldwide. This is by far the largest market for analog power ICs, with an estimated $2.8 billion in revenue coming from this region in 2004. Revenue is expected to surpass $6 billion by 2010.
National Semiconductor continues to be successful in the power management market, leading all suppliers in terms of analog power IC revenue. Just less than 30 percent of the company's total revenue comes from power management, with most of that revenue coming from sales of devices for communications applications.
Linear Technology has been successful in targeting the notebook computer market with its power products. About 42 percent of the company's power management products go toward computer applications, with an additional 36 percent targeting the communications market.
All of Texas Instruments' power management revenue comes from analog power products. The communications and consumer market segments are the intended targets for most of the company's analog power offerings - almost 75 percent are for these applications specifically. Texas Instruments' catalog includes mostly single-channel LDO regulators, supervisory circuits, and plug-in power modules.