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Renaissance for Renesas

Posted: 24 May 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Renesas roadmap  MCU  microcontroller  Japan IC industry 

"We will not follow a path of testing the waters and getting to know each other for the first two years, and then try to figure out how best to combine the best of the both worlds," Akao said.

The Renesas chief spoke sternly, displaying the methodical style of an engineer while avoiding talk of business models and market projections.

"I am asking those who report to me to come up with a unified plan" rather than a dual structure. "If operations pursued by the two companies are similar, pick one. If they insist on keeping two separate operations, they owe me an explanation [as to] why it's more economical and logical to do so," Akao said.

"What we need to do is very clear: We need to make choices up front to reduce development cost and improve throughput. These are the lessons I learned from having worked at Renesas Technology over the last seven years."

Renasas has plenty of critics, but some observers said it is making progress. Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research Corp., said Renesas Technology "did a good job of combining the MCU portfolios and targeting different application areas with different families."

When Hitachi and Mitsubishi merged, management said it was committed to all the microcontrollers and would continue to support all of its customers. "There was little conflict among the different MCU families," according to Massimini. Renesas Technology "more or less maintained its market share position, growing at the rate of the overall MCU market."

Japanese IC downfall
The new Renesas Electronics combines three domestic semiconductor companies: Hitachi, Mitsubishi and NEC. A decade ago, the trio represented 70 per cent of the Japanese IC industry.

Some observers fault Japanese chip vendors' low profit structure for their decline, often resulting from over-engineered products. Others blame weak leadership and poor execution along with slow decision-making process, risk-averse management and far-flung production operations that strained logistics.

Akao dryly acknowledged that a decline is "evidently clear," explaining that "I wouldn't call the Japanese semiconductor industry 'matured.' But in my opinion, many Japanese chip companies did not make a strategic choice, especially at an inflection point, in selecting the right markets they should have gone after."

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