Digital power to shake up power management market
Digital power has been around for sometime, but several hurdles need to be overcome before its real potential is realized. Digital power products essentially incorporate analog power functions around a digital core that can be programmed. Sometimes this is a DSP and sometimes a microcontroller.
Demand has been subdued in the past due in part to the learning curve associated with software programming for power design engineers. Pricing and overhead power consumption drawbacks from using a microcontroller or DSP core have also been roadblocks. However, industry players have made some progress recently which may open up this market in the near future.
There have been several new products introduced recently that are lower power, and lower cost. Innovation in this space is providing for a growing opportunity for digital single chip power management solutions. Companies such as Potentia Semiconductor, Power-One, Primarion, Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, Fairchild Semiconductor, Summit Microelectronics, Volterra, and Zilker Labs are moving quickly to bring analog power system designers up to speed on the products that require programming.
So far, digital power has been confined to the telecom and server markets, where processing trends continue to evolve with more complex requirements, such as the need for greater currents at lower voltages. However, as advances continue in ease of use, pricing (some analysts think ASPs need to be in the $1 to $2 range), and power consumption, this technology has real potential and will threaten discrete solutions in the higher volume application markets.
Databeans' conservative assessment forecasts digital power revenue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent on average, with a revenue value that will likely reach $400 million by 2010, up from $130 million today. However, the market could change whenever the present field of start-ups is joined by the larger entrenched power management suppliers. Fairchild Semiconductor and Texas Instruments have already picked up the gauntlet. The timeframe for critical mass is a bit unclear, and depends upon what is being developed confidentially in power division conference rooms around the industry. But there are indications that digital power R&D is on the rise, meaning that the technology has the potential to soon bring a real "jolt" to the market.
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