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There's More Growth to Mobile than Revenue Alone: Component innovation strong

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There's rarely a shortage of mobile news, whether the (happily) continued revenue or unit sales numbers, or the next generation device and component unveilings spanning high- to low-pricing tiers to hit the breadth of the global market demand. Throughout the past many quarters, we've been discussing the associated  positive disruptive events related to the top-demand smartphone and tablet PC devices and the effects on component design.

CE content demands drive innovation

The front-lining of the architectural changes to components was the breaking news at CES 2013 early this year, and started off a year filled with more focus on the continued component changes than the consumer electronic (CE) devices in which they were bound.

More recently, as consumers have increasingly turned to their mobile devices to access content, the demand to continue that accessibility for entertainment purposes has accelerated the "over-the-top (OTT) broadband" content. As users increasingly demand these OTT services for video entertainment, the forecast for specialized devices for home viewing has also risen, as noted in the recent iSuppli report:

Shipments of OTT-capable devices will rise 20 percent this year from 1.43 billion units in 2012, according to a new Consumer Electronics Topical Report from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS). At 1.7 billion units, this will equate to enough OTT systems to accommodate almost one out of every four people on the planet.

The market will grow another 20 percent next year, on its way to some 2.67 billion units by 2017, […]. By then, total shipments will have expanded by 86 percent from 2012 volumes—phenomenal growth by any measurement.

Important in understanding the above numbers is that these devices do also include smartphones, tablets, PCs, as well as internet-enabled DVRs, TVs, game consoles, and other digital media devices.

Demand-design paradigm

The component aspect to this content demand is having and will continue to have a significant impact on the direction of component design, just as we continue to see smartphones and tablet PCs affecting design to meet CE demands. This demand-design paradigm is essential to a healthy market for both semiconductor components and for devices themselves. The need to innovate and solve new challenges is what keeps our industry ever-growing and able to continue to evolve and see the type of continued growth numbers that are not always possible in other industries.

As iSuppli noted regarding the demand-design spurred by the rising OTT device adoption and demand:

The hurdle for such chips continues to climb, however, because the technical requirements imposed by OTT media are weighty. For instance, the newest media coding standard known as high-efficiency video codec requires substantially more computational power than earlier standards, and a brute approach relying on software alone would not suffice, draining a mobile device’s power, as an example.

At the same time, such challenges present rich opportunities for semiconductor suppliers as new standards and technologies continue to expand the market. The introduction of new and innovative technologies will inevitably require a new generation of semiconductors, with advancements made possible only from new silicon.

Again, with the growing focus on new technologies to solve new challenges, and particularly with the possible opening of innovation pathways should Moore's Law reach a slower pace due to complexities of the 1x-nm scales, our industry can look to 2014+ as the opening of new thoughts and solutions. Innovation is the critical core of our industry and the path of adoption for wearable electronics, smart life and city connectivity, and similar new adoptions push us closer to the Internet of Things, ubiquitous computing, reality. In turn, that state and road to it, is lined with many semiconductor components and innovative designs in materials and architectures.


Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Friday, 13 December 2013 11:50 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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