26 May 2006
Sound Investment(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 02,2006)
SigmaTel Hong Kong Ltd
|SigmaTel Hong Kong Ltd is using Hong Kong as an Asia-wide R&D centre to meet the escalating demands of the System-on-Chip market|
The bigger and more complex the System-on-Chip (SoC) market becomes, the more R&D is required. Nobody knows this better than SigmaTel Inc, a leading Texas-based provider of analogue intensive, mixed-signal integrated circuits that views Hong Kong as the ideal platform from which to provide its clients with Asia-wide R&D services.
"Asia accounts for more than 95% of the company's sales and it is therefore logical to have a strong presence in the region," discloses SigmaTel senior vice president-Asia Jose Lau.
SigmaTel recently opened a Hong Kong office staffed by 25 R&D engineers, who focus mainly on design support and provide a regional product-development contact for the company's Asia-based customers.
Lau believes the Hong Kong operation has improved customer relations for SigmaTel, which outsources the majority of its manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg Co Ltd.
"Hong Kong-based engineers understand the expectations and requirements of our customers," he maintains, adding that improved communication means products can be better modified to suit a client's requirements.
The 13-year-old company designs audio chips for a huge variety of devices, including portable compressed audio players such as MP3 players, notebook and desktop PCs, digital televisions and set-top boxes.
SigmaTel's customers and partners include Canon, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Philips, NEC, Casio, Fujitsu and Panasonic. "Extended support to our customers and to their extensive sales distribution channels has become an important part of SigmaTel's growth strategies," explains Lau.
In addition to its engineering centre, SigmaTel has formed a working partnership with the Hong Kong government-backed Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) to establish a new IC design centre.
"This is the company's first such facility outside the US and will enable us to respond rapidly to the design needs of our customers in fast-moving sectors such as computing and consumer electronics, where reducing design cycle times is critical," Lau predicts.
He believes the new IC design centre will enable SigmaTel to move its expertise closer to fast-growing markets across Asia. "With more than 100 companies producing portable consumer electronics products in Asia, demand for ICs and SoCs is expected to increase rapidly," tips Lau.
To meet client demand, SigmaTel recently launched its new-generation, high-performance SoC. "The SigmaTel STMP3600 SoC delivers the highest level of performance with the greatest degree of integration on the market," Lau claims.
The STMP3600 provides manufacturers with the ability to design and develop portable digital multimedia players with longer battery life as the integrated power management unit includes a high-efficiency, on-chip DC-DC converter that supports various battery configurations, including 1xAA, 1xAAA and lithium-ion cells.
"The STMP3600 provides low power consumption for the longest possible battery life in portable applications," claims Lau, who expects at least 20 companies to introduce products based on the new chip over the next few months.
He says the company's portable multimedia solutions offer market-leading benefits, including as much as a 30% reduction in material costs, high-speed USB 2.0 connections, up to 70 hours of battery life on a single AA battery and a reduction in PCBs through integration and innovative form factors.
"High on-chip integration means the STMP3600 needs very few external components," says Lau. "This allows manufacturers to meet consumer demand for smaller devices featuring more functionality at lower cost."
The STMP3600 also incorporates system solutions such as a high performance driver, high-speed processor, power management solutions, USB management memory and decode functions to deliver high-quality sound. "Electronics manufacturers can say goodbye to parallel port interfaces as USB and other types of connections are supported by the STMP3600," Lau insists.
These and other advanced features are integrated into SigmaTel software development kits that are coded specifically for the STMP3600 and enable faster development schedules for many portable multimedia applications.
"Our aim is to provide solutions that enable customers to rapidly introduce electronic products that are small, lightweight, power-efficient, reliable and cost-effective," Lau concludes.
WRITTEN BY CHRIS DAVIS
SigmaTel Hong Kong Ltd