Taiwan’s top chip house stretches beyond optical storage

Mike Clendenin / EETimes

TAIPEI, Taiwan — This island’s top chip designer, Mediatek Inc., is quietly pursuing a broader strategy that may help push the company beyond the one-hit-wonder status of some of its peers. While maintaining its dominant position as a supplier of optical-storage ICs, Mediatek is pursuing internal development and acquisitions to push into mobile-phone chips, wireless-LAN baseband processors and LCD TV image processors.

The company already has handset design wins with South Korea’s LG Electronics, Japan’s NEC and Taiwan’s BenQ, according to analysts. It is also has a design-in at China’s Ningbo Bird and reportedly has won over another of China’s top cell phone makers.

Analysts estimate the company is shipping about 1.5 million GSM/GPRS chip sets per month and that the total should increase to about 2.5 million by year’s end, giving it about 3 percent market share. “Initially, Mediatek will only have access to the lower rung, smaller players. You have to remove Samsung, Nokia, Sony Ericsson — but Motorola is still a possibility,” said Dhruv Vohra, a Taipei-based chip analyst at CLSA Asia Pacific Markets. “So there is only about 10 percent of the addressable market for them, but there is still a good scope of growth at this stage.”

To bolster its chances, the company has bought Pixtel Communications Inc., a handset software specialist for man-machine interfaces that once did contract work for Motorola Inc. It came with a 70-man team in India, which will allow Mediatek to offer strong software support, especially for Chinese handset OEMs that are still weak in that area.

It also recently committed $50 million over a five-year period to open an IC design center in Singapore. It expects to employ about 35 engineers there by the end of the year and have a staff of about 300 by 2009. It’s looking to boost its companywide head count from 1,100 to about 2,500 to 3,000 during the same period.

Part of that growth will come from acquisitions. In addition to Pixtel, Mediatek recently acquired InProcomm, a Taiwanese wireless LAN baseband designer, and is still looking to pick up another WLAN company, according to sources. “They will look to go into that space very hard,” said a former InProcomm executive, who asked not to be identified. And Mediatek‘s close relationship to foundry United Microelectronics Corp., its former parent, could mean low wafer prices that would give it a needed edge in the cutthroat wireless-LAN marketplace.

The company has also been talking about an LCD TV image processor, which it seems to be holding back so it can make some changes to differentiate the device from the current crop of contenders.

Mediatek executives declined to discuss the strategy. But sources said it’s clear Mediatek is pushing beyond its core competency in PC optical storage and DVD players. “Optical storage is already quite saturated,” said Jessica Chang, who follows Mediatek for Macquarie Securities in Taipei. “They need to get [into] something new.”

不再侷限於光儲存 聯發科積極拓展產品組合

為了破除 ‘一代拳王’ 的迷思,Mediatek聯發科)這間台灣最大的 IC 設計公司正悄悄地展開產品佈局策略,不再侷限於光儲存的單一領域中。除了內部自行開發外,聯發科也採取了併購動作,已將其產品組合擴展到行動電話晶片、無線區域網路基頻處理器,以及 LCD TV 影像處理器等。

根據分析師的說法,聯發科已經贏得南韓 LG、日本 NEC 以及台灣明基的手機訂單,此外,據報導,中國大陸的寧波波導也採用了聯發科的手機方案。

分析師預估,目前聯發科每個月可以出貨 150 萬組的 GSM/GPRS 晶片,到今年底可望增加到 250 萬組,市佔率為 3%。CLSA Asia Pacific Markets 的半導體分析師 Dhruv Vohra 表示,“初期,聯發科只能鎖定規模較小的手機製造商,像是三星諾基亞Sony Ericsson 這些大廠就不用談了,但 Motorola 倒是有可能。所以,大概只有 10% 的市場是可能進入的,即使如此,這也是很好的成長契機。”

為了強化在手機市場的策略,聯發科日前併購了 Pixtel Communications 公司,這是一間專注於手機人機介面的軟體廠商,曾經承接過 Motorola 的設計工作。藉由此併購,聯發科取得了 70 位位於印度的軟體人才,這對軟體實力較弱的亞洲手機製造商來說,將可以提供更好的支援。

此外,聯發科也表示要在未來五年內,投入美金 5000 萬元在新加坡成立 IC 設計中心,預計今年底前招募 35 位工程師,到 2009 年逐步擴充至 300 人的規模。同時,在未來五年內,聯發科的規模也將從 1100 名員工,成長至 2500 至 3000 名。

公司規模的成長部分是來自併購。除了 Pixtel,聯發科最近也買下了台灣一間無線區域網路基頻設計廠商 InProcomm集耀通訊),並不排除再併購其他的 WLAN 公司。被要求不具名的前集耀通訊高階主管表示,“聯發科將積極的投入於WLAN市場。”此外,有鑑於聯發科聯電的緊密關係,有可能取得較低的晶圓價格,這也有助於它進入此一激烈削價競爭的 WLAN 市場。

此外,據稱 LCD TV 影像處理器也是聯發科的另一項目標,但由於為了與其他競爭者有更大的差異化,該產品目前正進行修改,尚未正式出貨。

聯發科的高階主管拒絕談論這些策略。但是,消息來源指稱,聯發科積極擴充產品組合,不再侷限於 PC 光儲存與 DVD 播放機的策略是非常明顯的。Macquarie Securities 的 Jessica Chang 指出,“光儲存已經非常飽和了,它們不得不尋找新的目標。”
 
 
柯德林 / 電子工程專輯

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About mtlin

I'm easygoing and sometimes sentimental, also can be very funny. Geek style but social. A Blogger, a Wikipedian and an Engineer.
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