'Focus Shifted from Gadgets to Quality of Life,' National Semi CEO Says

Mar 3, 2009
Katsumi Yamashita, Nikkei Electronics
National Semiconductor's Chairman Brian L. Halla
National Semiconductor's Chairman Brian L. Halla
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The fourth boom driven by gadgets (consumer products) is over. And the fifth boom has already begun.
The fourth boom driven by gadgets (consumer products) is over. And the fifth boom has already begun.
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SolarMagic. This is the first-generation model. Its price is about US$150. "If the production volume increases, the price will naturally drop as a result," Halla said.
SolarMagic. This is the first-generation model. Its price is about US$150. "If the production volume increases, the price will naturally drop as a result," Halla said.
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A wave of miniaturization will hit medical equipment as well. "Analog semiconductors are key to smaller medical equipment," he said.
A wave of miniaturization will hit medical equipment as well. "Analog semiconductors are key to smaller medical equipment," he said.
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"The semiconductor industry has experienced several booms. In the last boom, gadgets (consumer products) were the driver. But now that is over, and we are already in the new boom that is being driven by electronics designed to enhance quality of life (QOL)."

Brian L. Halla, chairman of the board and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp, a US-based analog semiconductor manufacturer, expressed his view at a press conference in Tokyo Feb 27, 2009.

"The economy is now in an extremely severe state because the semiconductor industry, which is a major indicator of GDP, is failing to offer chips suited for such QOL-focused electronics," he said. "In fact, price earnings ratios (PER) are not growing at analog semiconductor manufacturers. It's a testimony to the fact that new innovations are not taking place."

Specifically, QOL-focused electronics include devices powered by recyclable energies, electric vehicles/hybrids, medical equipment and sensor-based security systems.

"In all of those products, analog semiconductors play a significant role," Halla said.

As analog semiconductor products targeting QOL-focused electronics applications, he cited the following five examples. (1) "SolarMagic," which enhances the energy output of photovoltaic (PV) systems, (2) driver ICs for LED lamps, (3) non-contact charger ICs for mobile devices, (4) analog front-end ICs to downsize medical equipment and (5) "intelligent battery management" chips for hybrid vehicles.

Halla holds the highest hope for SolarMagic among the five products. SolarMagic executes MPP (maximum power point) control in each solar cell to prevent energy output from decreasing when a solar cell module is partially shaded, he said.

"Many users have given up on installing PV systems due to shading thus far," he said. "However, SolarMagic allows even such users to set up PV systems."

National Semiconductor is now discussing partnerships with solar cell manufacturers with a view to commercializing SolarMagic in Japan. It is planning to announce the details at PVJapan 2009 slated for June 24 to 26, 2009.