Atmel, Nvidia propel next-gen MIDs
2/14/2011 3:03 AM EST
Design win mania
In addition, ''Qualcomm is benefitting from generic smartphone strength with Snapdragon chips shipping into Motorola Droids and others, the HTC EVO, HTC Incredible, LG Expo, and phones by Sony-Ericsson, Acer, and Lenovo,’’ Berger wrote in a report.Last year, Qualcomm rolled out a new version of its Snapdragon chipset, based on an ARM architecture and a 28-nm process.
After a false start, Nvidia is gaining ground in the arena. ''Many of the sexiest smartphones and tablets at CES (were) being powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2, including Motorola’s coming iPad competitor, the Motorola Atrix handset, and the LG Optimus 2X handset, a couple of potentially real competitive devices versus the iPhone,’’ Berger said.
Another player, Texas Instruments, said its OMAP 4430 is the applications processor inside the forthcoming BlackBerry Playbook tablet from Research in Motion.
Like the processor front, the touchscreen chipset market is competitive. Citing strong demand in the market, Cypress Semiconductor Corp. recently implemented a ''significant manufacturing capacity expansion'' for its growing touchscreen controller line.
Cypress’s Fab 4 in Bloomington, Minn., and Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the company's primary foundry partner, will triple the capacity for the S8 manufacturing process in 2011. Cypress also announced several design wins for its touchscreen chip line, mostly in the handset and other fronts.
''We do believe that first signs of wins using Cypress’ TrueTouch (touchscreen line) for tablets will become more visible in late-Q1/Q2. We note that Cypress’ touch solutions are at a discount verses Atmel’s at $6-8 in tablets and $3-4 in handsets,’’ said Freedman of Gleacher & Co.
Last week, another competitor, Synaptics Inc., announced the first line of capacitive multi-touch interface solutions for use with integrated displays, the ClearPad Series 3 and Series 4. With on-cell and in-cell integrated displays, Synaptics makes it possible to enable capacitive multi-touch sensing in mobile devices.
The ClearPad Series 4’s approach combines Synaptics’ ClearPad multi-touch technology with the display driver (DDI) into a single-chip solution that delivers the most advanced display noise management and capacitive sensing performance, the company claimed.
''We believe Synaptics remains a viable competitor in handsets, while on track to become a preferred vendor for notebook touch-screens and lower-volume non-handset opportunities (gaming, PMP, handhelds) that favor high-service solutions via modules,’’ said Ian Ing, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., in a recent report.
But to date, Atmel has garnered what appears to be the most momentum in the market. The company’s maXTouch line exceeded its target from little or nothing in 2008 to a whopping $140 million in sales in 2010 alone, Freedman of Gleacher & Co. said.
''MaXTouch is now expected to grow (twofold) in calendar 2011 towards $300 million,’’ Freedman said. Atmel ''continues to gain design wins on what we presume to be high-volume devices, including Nokia's c7, Motorola's Droid Pro and Defy and HTC's Desire Z and Trophy 7 in the recent quarter. Recall Atmel already has wins with Droid X, Evo, Samsung Galaxy S, and Samsung Galaxy Tab.’’
To meet demand for its touchscreen chips, microcontrollers and other products, Atmel has expanded its foundry capacity at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and United Microelectronics Corp. ''Added capacity (at TSMC and UMC), which will support revenue in excess of $600 million (per) quarter before the end of the year, should help draw-down lead-times even further, primarily at the distributor level,’’ he said.
''Stepping back, Atmel has done a tremendous job of winning MCU and touchscreen controller market share, with the firm likely to enjoy fundamental strength for some time to come,’’ said FBR’s Berger.
''Essentially, we think Atmel can penetrate a meaningful share of the non-Apple smartphone and non-Apple tablet/e-book reader market. We also assume that a high proportion of smartphones and even feature phone units will have touchscreens, enabling Atmel to more fully participate in these markets,’’ he said.
''Assuming a 27 percent incremental operating margin on its maXTouch chips (which could be a generous assumption in our view), we estimate that Atmel will see revenues of $306 million in 2011, $390 million in 2012, and $433 million in 2013’’ in touchscreen chips, he added.