Sunday, April 20, 2008
[Originally for Sramana Mitra's site]
As we continue to analyze the company’s wireless products, it is illustrative to look at its connectivity solutions strategy. In the last segment of this series, we discussed Marvell’s WLAN business. In this piece, I will analyze its Bluetooth and GPS strategies, which I consider as vital elements of tomorrow’s convergence devices.
Marvell hardly has any presence in the Bluetooth market. However, its Bluetooth, WLAN and FM single chip solution, the company claims, is gaining traction. While this will help Marvell retain its WLAN customers, it is unlikely to draw Bluetooth customers away from the incumbents, most notably Broadcom and CSR. Broadcom is in a position to exploit the high Bluetooth attach rate in mobile phones to increase the WLAN uptake through a combined product. Marvell will likely find it more difficult.
Marvell announced a single-chip Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR solution last summer. Marvell is hoping to capture some of the lucrative headset market with this product but may be a little late to do so. I am, however, encouraged that it is pursuing an active R&D effort for Bluetooth which is imperative if it wants to be a successful mobile chipset vendor.
Marvell’s GPS strategy is more interesting. While most of its competitors either already have a good GPS solution or have quickly acquired its capabilities, Marvell has not made any tangible acquisition move as yet. When questioned, CEO Sehat Sutardja did acknowledge that GPS will be imperative for a number of mobile applications in the next two years or so. But he continues to make the point that the company’s GPS roadmap will be cost-driven. Marvell’s strategy is to internally develop GPS solutions that will add incrementally minimal cost to its platform. The company thinks that the success of GPS-based services will hinge on its large-scale adoption in the low-end mobile phones. While this may be posturing to discount its obvious handicap at this juncture, I do acknowledge that it is interesting out-of-box thinking from the company.
Marvell is unlikely to make an impact in the stand-alone Bluetooth market. From the looks of it, it is also not pursuing the GPS stand-alone market. Both efforts are directed towards bolstering the mobile platform components instead. Whether these will pay off entirely depends on the scale of the design wins Marvell can get for its XScale based mobile platforms.