What’s up with TI and National Semiconductor?
A few months ago, I met with at team from TI about some new product announcements. The team included a member from what was previously known as National Semiconductor. The companies had combined only a short time previously, and I was immediately impressed with the rapport, mutual respect, and mutual enthusiasm from the team. They explained to me how pleased they were at how their respective product portfolios dovetailed together, and their enthusiasm for future collaborations. Well, it’s been six months since the combination of National Semiconductor and TI, so I thought it was a good time to see how things are going. Here is the text of my interview with Gregg Lowe, senior vice president of the company’s analog business.
It’s been about six months since your acquisition of National Semiconductor. How are things going?
When our acquisition of National Semiconductor closed last September, we immediately focused our energy on growing the business. National had a tremendous product portfolio, and some of the most experienced analog designers in the industry. Together with TI’s sales reach, we would be able to offer these products to a significantly broader set of customers, and help enable those customers to solve their analog design challenges. The way our people have come together is extraordinary.
Today, National Semiconductor is known as Silicon Valley Analog (SVA) and is run by Dave Heacock, who was previously responsible for TI’s High-Volume Analog and Logic (HVAL) business. Strategic business unit managers who joined TI from National are key members of his leadership team.
SVA continues to focus on power management, as well as precision and high-speed signal chain. The collaboration between SVA and our existing power and signal chain teams has been remarkable. Our teams hit the ground running, in many cases the day after the acquisition closed, to coordinate activities and better serve our customers.
Speaking of customers, how have they responded?
In the first 60 days after the close, the leaders inside our analog business, including the SVA team, and I met with hundreds of customers. Feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. They see the advantages that with the addition of National, TI offers more design and development resources, more manufacturing capacity, more products, and more tools and support.
We have the industry’s largest analog design team to help keep our customers at the forefront of innovation. And now our analog engineers have a larger, combined portfolio of analog process technologies to optimize their designs to solve our customers’ toughest challenges.
We also have the largest applications support and sales team – 10 times larger than National’s previous footprint – making it easier for customers to select, evaluate and design with our products.
With the addition of three SVA factories, we have more than 4 million square feet of capacity to help our customers get the devices they need when they need them.
And with nearly 45,000 analog products, TI has the largest analog portfolio available with very little overlap. A great example is our data converter portfolio. On the high-speed side, National offered ultra-high-speed analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) running at speeds faster than 250 MSPS, while TI provided high-speed, high-resolution ADCs at speeds up to 250 MSPS and with 12-, 14- and 16-bit resolutions. Our combined portfolio today is not only larger but more diverse to meet customers’ needs.
This large portfolio also means we can provide customers with more complete solutions. For example, we have a chemical sensor solution that is the only programmable solution of its kind and is also the most highly integrated. From SVA, it combines the LMP9100, a configurable AFE potentiostat for low-power chemical sensing applications, and the DAC161P9977current-loop transmitter with TI’s 16-bit MSP430 MCU, and XTR117 current-loop transmitter. We offer similar solutions for applications like high-bay LED lighting, portable ultrasound, motor control and solar micro inverters, just to name a few, with many, many more in the works.
Where have you seen the greatest opportunities for your technical teams to collaborate with one another?
We’ve held technology sharing sessions to foster collaboration between our engineering teams and accelerate innovation for customers. Attendees leave the sessions with innovative ideas to explore further and new people to collaborate with in other business units or sites. Feedback from these sessions has been phenomenal, with many participants telling us they appreciated the deep and relevant technical information shared and ideas sparked. Our engineers have left these events even more invigorated and excited about the opportunities before them.
I’m really excited about the product advancements our design teams will make. With new IP and process technology options, our engineers have even more opportunity to maximize their design innovation to meet the high-performance, low-power and small-size specifications needed for our customers’ next-generation designs.
How have you addressed overlap from current products? What about product roadmaps?
Existing product overlap is minimal – much less than even we expected given the size of the TI and National product portfolios. And where we do have overlap, we continue to offer both devices. Our customers can count on us to continue making our products as long as we are technologically capable of doing so. Obsolescence is always a last resort at TI, and we often offer product availability for decades.
Where we have had overlap in our product lines, the acquisition has afforded us the opportunity to examine the technical strengths and experience of our teams to strategically focus our design efforts in specific areas. For example, we have a product line in SVA that’s been focused more on the industrial market, while a similar product line in our High Performance Analog (HPA) business has primarily focused on communications applications. These two product lines now have even more opportunity to strategically focus their resources on meeting the needs of their respective market segments.
Has anything surprised you?
We knew National was a great company, but we’ve been blown away by the innovative thinking and the kinds of technology that SVA has been developing. We thought their level of technical capability was high based on the new products introduced over the last few years, but we didn’t have any insight into their development efforts until the acquisition closed. We were very pleased when we saw their plans.
We’ve also been surprised at the similarities between our cultures. Common threads include a high value on innovation and creative thinking, mutual respect, honesty and a strong work ethic.
As I mentioned earlier, customer acceptance of the acquisition has also been extremely high. Our customers are truly excited about what TI can now offer with the addition of National. More products. More solutions. More tools. More support. More capacity. With the addition of SVA, we are an even stronger partner for our customers.
What are your key product focus areas in analog for 2012?
We remain focused on designing products with improved performance and with greater power efficiency. For our data converter and amplifier businesses specifically, this includes: higher speeds with more bandwidth and digital processing options; higher accuracy with higher system performance and low drift over time and temperature; better power optimization for longer battery life and simpler designs; and higher integration and smaller size for shorter design cycles and more channels.
Providing customers with new tools to make system design easier and faster will also continue to be a focus area for TI. WEBENCH® designer and architect has long been a popular and useful tool to help designers tackle complex systems and get to market faster. Since the acquisition, we have worked hard to incorporate TI’s expansive portfolio of products into WEBENCH, and we are continuing to add new modules and features to the tool, like a new system power architect that will be introduced soon. Each day, more than 1200 designs around the world are started in WEBENCH, and we will continue to invest in the tool to help our customers design the next big thing.
You recently announced the opening of TI Silicon Valley Labs. What kind of opportunities are you seeing on the R&D side as a result the acquisition?
The National acquisition has given TI a significant footprint in Silicon Valley for the first time in our more than 80-year history. We couldn’t be more thrilled about that. The concentration of high-quality engineering talent in Silicon Valley is undeniable.
In recognition of this, we just opened a new research center called TI Silicon Valley Labs at our offices in Santa Clara, Calif. There we are conducting advanced research and development in analog and mixed-signal circuits and technologies in close collaboration with local universities and customers. Some of our first projects focus on analog signal processing for ultra-low power pattern recognition and re-architecting power management for future cloud servers.
Our labs are built on relationships and investment in the entire innovation ecosystem – from undergraduate internships to advanced analog semiconductor research with consulting professors and customers’ research teams. We believe these joint efforts will further advance R&D activities in our industry.
In addition to the labs, we’re working with Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and other area universities to further strengthen key engineering undergraduate programs. This collaboration will also provide opportunities for graduate-level research in our local offices. We’re also doubling our internship opportunities for top engineering undergraduate students as well as training programs for top new college graduates.
TI Silicon Valley Labs is a great complement to TI’s other R&D labs and university programs worldwide. Together, these allow TI to develop innovative technology that makes a difference for our customers and to help foster the next generation of electronics engineering innovators.
About Gregg Lowe:
Gregg Lowe is senior vice president of the analog business for Texas Instruments, which includes High Performance Analog, High Volume Analog and Logic, Power Management, and Silicon Valley Analog. Since April 2006, he has led global strategy and operations for TI’s wide-ranging portfolio of standard and application-specific analog chips. These play an integral role in most electronic equipment as the connection between digital and real-world signals, such as voice, sound, pressure, temperature and electricity. Under Gregg’s leadership, TI has strengthened its position as the leading analog supplier worldwide, through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions. These changes have better equipped TI to help customers solve their analog design challenges.
Lowe joined TI’s field sales organization in 1984, with responsibility for growing the company’s business with automobile manufacturers. In 1990, he moved to Germany to lead the European automotive sales force, managing teams and customer relationships in France, Germany, Italy, England and Spain. While in this role, Lowe learned to speak German fluently. In 1994, Lowe returned to the U.S. to manage TI’s Microcontroller organization. Later, he led the Application Specific Integrated Circuit organization, overseeing a worldwide team with design centers and customers on each continent. In 2001, he moved to the Analog business to manage High Speed Communications and Controls. Later that year, Lowe became manager of the High Performance Analog business unit with responsibility for TI’s high-performance data converter, amplifier, power management and interface integrated circuits.
Lowe earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1984 from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. He later received the university’s Career Achievement Award to recognize his accomplishments in the community and within the semiconductor industry. He graduated from the Stanford Executive Program at Stanford University. A strong believer in education, Lowe participates in TI’s university recruiting. In addition, he serves as a member of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees. In 2010, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. in Cleveland, OH, appointed Lowe to its Board of Trustees.