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A closer look at Dialog

Posted: 16 Apr 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:power management  mixed-signal R&D  mobile devices  PM OLED 

EE Times: Do you have any plans to diversify from your core power management activities?

Jalal Bagherli: System power management will remain our main area of expertise, and we plan to build on that by, for instance, developing new classes of ASSP devices that will work with a variety of applications processors targeting different end user sectors. This will also offer us differentiation through the level l of functional integration we can bring to the party.

But in parallel with this, we are working on advances in low-power display controllers for passive matrix OLEDS—our so called SmartXtend technology that extends the PM OLED from the sub-display to the primary display of mobile devices—as well as drivers for MEMS and E-Ink based displays. Some of this we do on a contract basis with partners—for instance with Qualcomm MEMS Technologies for their Mirasol monochrome and now multi-colour displays—while other R&D is our own bet.

The PM OLED comes into the latter category, and if the technology works out and we can get it integrated into next generation mobile phones by some tier 1 players such as, say, Nokia, we can create a company three to four times the size we are now. It is of course a bet, but we are already of a size that can afford a few of these.

EE Times: What is the timescale for commercializing this technology?

Jalal Bagherli: Well, we are working closely with our Japanese partner TDK. Our input is the controller chip that reduces significantly the peak currents. That is a major drawback with OLEDS and our IP averages out peak currents using multiple line addressing techniques plus some sophisticated and accurate matching technology. We have already done a version in an FPGA and are now on a monolithic test chip that we expect to be sampling in the third quarter. Realistically, we don't expect it to be embedded in a mobile device before the first half of 2010.

EE Times: The camera modules work at Dialog was spun out some three years ago to Digital Imaging Systems. Are there plans for similar spin outs in the near term?

Jalal Bagherli: Well everything we do now fits in with the strategy of a fabless semiconductor operation, but of course we are constantly on the look-out for opportunities. But I would say an acquisition is more likely at this stage that a spin-out. I won't say we are actively looking, but our antennas are sharper than perhaps six months ago, because of the external factors caused by the downturn. There are a few interesting bargains out there, both of small private start-ups that need cash to continue R&D and commercializing technology, and even some publicly-quoted operations. We are in the enviable position of having no debt and about Rs.183.96 crore ($37 million) in cash.

-John Walko
EE Times Europe

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