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The Business: SiRF, CSR to Merge; Kanwar Chadha’s Perspective

March 1, 2009  - By


SiRF, CSR to Merge; Kanwar Chadha’s Perspective

SiRF Technology Holdings, Inc., of San Jose, California, and CSR plc, formerly Cambridge Silicon Radio, headquartered in Cambridge, United Kingdom, will merge in a stock-for-stock transaction to create a new company, which will automatically assume a competitive, leading position in global connectivity and location markets. The companies expect the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2009.

“Financially, strategically, and commercially, this is a compelling transaction,” said Joep van Beurden, CEO of CSR — and analysts would almost universally agree. SiRF has been under the financial microscope since troubles surfaced in Q1 2008, and speculation about an acquisition had been rife.

Further, SiRF has been locked in a patent battle with Broadcom, the latter involved through its July 2007 acquisition of Global Locate.

CSR has made its mark in the Bluetooth connectivity sector, combining multiple connectivity technologies, while SiRF has long pioneered GPS location with multifunction system-on-chip (SoC) location platforms for consumer handhelds and cell phones. In January 2007, CSR purchased GNSS software receiver innovator NordNav.

Chadha Says. “From a strategy viewpoint,” SiRF founder and vice president of marketing Kanwar Chadha told GPS World, “multi-function radios is something we have been talking about for two years. Market opportunities became much larger in the last six months, with Nokia driving loction into every mobile phone.

“When you see a market opportunity in front of you, it’s better to combine best-of-class than to build a solution from scratch.

“We have a strong customer base in automotive and PNDs, while we are expanding into wireless. CSR is compelementary: strong now in wireless, and so on.

“In easy times, you can build your own solution. In tough times, trying to build an additional platform of technology, if we start from scratch, that may take four to five years to prove out; that’s very difficult. Both of us tried to do that, by the way. They need GPS, we need Bluetooth.

“Now, our multimode AGPS with their EGPS, and the economies of scale enjoyed by a now close to a billion-dollar company, we feel very good about that. Bluetooth in hands-free mobile phones, that has a 50 percent penetration in handsets. It is much deeper than GPS today, although GPS is catching up.

“Their [CSR’s] world is very mobile-phone centric. We are more location-platform centric, more diverse in our view. It will be very interesting. GPS-Bluetooth-FM: for our customers, the handset vendors, this is their most requested combination. There are two ways to integrate these function: integrate GPS with a modem, as Qualcomm does, or integrate it into  what CSR calls a connectivity center, of short-range wireless technologies.”

Lines Drawn. A significant market battle continues between the big four in the mass market OEM GPS chip sector: Broadcom, Qualcomm, CSR, and TI, formerly Texas Instruments — with Sony and Panasonic quietly going about their own business, making GPS chips for brand devices, but in a position to supply others, if they are not doing so already. The new ST-NXP Wireless joint venture with Ericsson (see story page 18) will also play in that arena.

Chadha does not expect to see competition from manufacturers in Taiwan and China, at least not immediately. “These are complex radio technologies, not simple digital technologies.”

Brand. “The SiRF brand won’t go away, it’s very strong,” he concluded. “We’ll continue to build on it. the location platform will be our recognizable art of the new company , and of course we’ll continue applying our expertise there.”

On a pro forma basis, the two companies combined would have had 2008 sales of approximately $927 million. The combination will create the single largest pure-play provider of integrated connectivity and location platforms and will be one of the top 10 fabless semiconductor companies in the world, according to a joint statement. Customers include four of the top five handset makers, the top five PND makers, the top two auto-telematics suppliers, and other leading electronics providers. CSR and SiRF will have design and customer-support centers around the world.

On closing of the transaction, SiRF stockholders are expected to own 27% and CSR shareholders are expected to own 73% of the combined company. CSR’s board will add SiRF interim CEO Dado Banatao and Chadha. The combined company, with CSR’s Van Beurden as CEO, will be based in Cambridge, and San Jose will serve as U.S. headquarters.


Ericsson and STMicro Complete Mobile Merger

STMicroelectronics and Ericsson have closed their agreement merging Ericsson Mobile Platforms and ST-NXP Wireless into a 50/50 joint venture. The deal was completed on the terms originally announced on August 20, 2008.

The new company is designed for long-term stability and to become an industry leader in product research, as well as design, development, and the creation of mobile platforms and wireless semiconductors. The joint venture begins as a major supplier to four of the industry’s top five handset manufacturers, who together represent about 80 percent of global handset shipments, as well as to other industry leaders.

Ericsson contributed $1.1 billion net to the joint venture, out of which $0.7 billion was paid  to STMicro. Before the closing of the transaction, STMicro exercised its option to buy out NXP’s 20 percent ownership stake of ST-NXP Wireless.

Alain Dutheil, CEO of ST-NXP Wireless and chief operating officer of STMicroelectronics, will lead the joint venture as president and chief executive officer.Employing about 8,000 people — roughly 3,000 from Ericsson and 5,000 from STMicro — the new wireless technologies company is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.


Honeywell T-Hawk Micro Vehicle Heads for U.K.

Honeywell received an order for six T-Hawk micro air vehicle (MAV) systems from the U.S. Navy, the contracting agency for the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD) for the T-Hawk MAV system procurement, in a contract valued at USD $5.7 million.

The new U.K. order comes in addition to the Navy’s existing T-Hawk contract with Honeywell, announced in November 2008, for 90 systems. The T-Hawk MAV will be used by joint force EOD (Explosive Ordinance Device) units in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations.

The circular vehicle, weighing 17 pounds and 14 inches in diameter, can fly down to inspect hazardous areas for threats without exposing warfighters to enemy fire. The T-Hawk MAV can take off and land vertically and fly more than 40 minutes, at more than 40 knots of airspeed, operating at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet.

An eye-in-the-sky for battlefield surveillance, the Honeywell MAV carries video cameras to relay real-time data and a GPS device. It identifies improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and can inspect suspected bomb sites in areas inaccessible by ground robots.


Epson, Infineon Develop Tiny Single-Chip Receiver

Seiko Epson Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, and Infineon Technologies AG of Neubiberg, Germany, have developed a GPS single-chip design, the XPOSYS, which is optimized for mobile devices for the consumer market — especially cellular phones with navigation features.

Compared to existing solutions in the market, the XPOSYS, which is manufactured in a 65-nanometer process technology, provides increased performance and new levels of user experience, the companies said.

Sensitivity has been increased from -160 dBm to -165 dBm, allowing for pinpoint positional accuracy when indoors or in urban canyons. Power consumption has been reduced by 50 percent, increasing the battery life of products in which it is included. The footprint has been reduced to 2.8 x 2.9 millimeters, which the companies claim is 25 percent less than the smallest GPS chip available elsewhere.

u-blox Launches Cards for Mobile Computers

A GPS PCI Express Mini card from u-blox (Thalwil, Switzerland) enables next-generation laptop, netbook, mobile internet device and Ultra Mobile PC OEMs to provide GPS and location-based services (LBS) such as personal navigation, services and people finders, and geo-tagging.

“With the explosive potential of next-generation GPS applications and services for mobile PCs, it is the right time to introduce a robust PCI Express mini card supporting location-based services,” said Thomas Nigg, Vice President Product Marketing at u-blox.Sales of mobile PCs with integrated GPS are projected to grow from 3 million units in 2007 to 45 million units in 2011, according to u-blox.

Qualcomm Launches Chipset for Low-Cost Smartphones

Qualcomm, Inc., has launched the Mobile Station Modem MSM7227 chipset designed to enable high-performance, sub-$150 smartphones. The MSM7227 chipset features integrated Bluetooth 2.1 and GPS, a 600-MHz applications processor with a floating point unit, 320-MHz application DSP, 400-MHz modem processor, hardware-accelerated 3D graphics, 8-megapixel camera, and 30-fps WVGA video encode and decode and display support.

The MSM7227 chipset is designed to provide advanced processing and multimedia while using HSDPA/HSUPA for broadband data speeds over 3G networks. It also can support all leading mobile operating systems including Android, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile and BREW Mobile Platform, according to the company.

The MSM7227 chipset has a 12 x 12 millimeter footprint and lower power consumption than previous MSM7xxx-series chips. It is sampling now, and commercial smartphones based on the chip are expected to launch later this year.

Broadcom Combos GPS, Bluetooth, and FM Radio System-on-Chip

Broadcom Corporation of Irvine, California, has released BCM2075, a new, integrated GPS, Bluetooth, and FM radio in a single-chip design, targeting location-based services (LBS) applications. The processor reduces the host and application processing required by competing combo solutions, enabling greater adoption in mass market handsets, according to the company.

The BCM2075 integrates four radios (Bluetooth, GPS, FM receive, and FM transmit), enabling the radios to operate simultaneously and with minimal interference.

The company expects the chip to drive key handset applications that network operators and consumers are looking to adopt, furthering the cause of LBS and advanced multimedia available on mid-range mobile phones. The GPS core uses a host-based integration architecture that splits the processing duties between the BCM2075 and the host CPU system and provides low GPS power, delivering a reported 50 percent better power performance compared to other chips, the company said. Broadcom’s GPS technology, stemming largely from its July 2007 purchase of Global Locate, enables a fast time-to-first-fix and provides integrated support for other positioning technologies, such as Wi-Fi positioning.



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