Sunday, March 23, 2008
In the prequel, we discussed TI’s growing analog semiconductor business. Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) is an equally big business for the company contributing 40% of its semiconductor revenues. TI dominates the DSP market with 65% share and its products are preferred in a variety of applications ranging from communication infrastructure, automotive navigation, imaging systems to HD video products.
The main drivers for TI’s DSP business are wireless handsets and infrastructure. The company’s DSP play in the cell phone market primarily comes from its OMAP business. The company enjoys between 65 and 70% of the application processor market share. OMAP processors are used for streaming video, 2D/3D gaming, video conferencing, high resolution still image, video capturing in 2.5 and 3G handsets and in PDAs.
The OMAP platform is a mix of its OMAP processors, software and support that deliver real-time applications with low power consumption – the two key components of tomorrow’s cell phones. TI offers stand-alone OMAP processors for use in smart phones. The customer can pick from a range of OMAP products for high performance and basic multimedia functions.
The company also offers integrated communications and application processors through its OMAP 730, 850 and OMAP-Vox modem technology. The OMAP-Vox platform integrated the baseband modem, the OMAP processor and the Digital RF Processor (DRP) together with analog and power management functions to provide a complete solution targeting the feature phone and the smartphone markets. The solution is currently available for GSM/GPRS/EDGE technologies only.
TI’s OMAP also pictures in the custom 2G and 3G products that it manufactures for the likes of Nokia and Ericsson. In these cases, TI integrates the customer’s baseband IP with its OMAP processor, DRP and power management functions to design customized chips. It does not however have its own 3G baseband chip or IP. While the company does not view this as a deficiency in its product-line, this strategy may well turn out to be its Achilles heel (I will discuss its mobile strategy in a sequel). Interested readers can see TI’s OMAP product roadmap here.
To summarize, TI is looking at DSP to open new growth markets in diverse areas like public safety, medical and automotive. Its OMAP processors are in most smartphones in the market today. The company is also buoyant about its prospects here. Though no other competitor has so far got wide traction in the application processors market, this position may be challenged due to newer entrants and TI’s own strategy to shun 3G baseband development. In turn, this will determine the fortunes of the DSP business and the extent of influence that the mobile market will have on its future.