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EETE OCT 2013

Dialog’s CEO lays ambitious plans By Peter Clarke Jalal Bagherli has been CEO of Dialog Semiconductor plc since September 2005. Over that time, the company has ridden the mobile consumer equipment wave to success, particularly with power management ICs. Dialog, a fabless vendor of mixed-signal, power, audio, and RF chips, primarily addresses the fast-paced mobile device market, though it makes some sales for industrial and automotive applications. Bagherli told us in an exclusive interview that he wants to follow up the company’s July acquisition of the smart power IC startup iWatt Inc. to take Dialog into adjacent high-growth consumer markets. “We are trying to create a company based in Europe, based on European skills, but with global ambitions,” Bagherli said. The company is headquartered near Stuttgart in Germany, but it has design centers in Munich, Swindon, Edinburgh, Istanbul, Italy, Greece, Holland, Tokyo, Beijing, and (through the iWatt acquisition) Campbell, Calif. When Bagherli arrived, Dialog was dipping in and out of profit with quarterly sales of about $40 million. For the third quarter of 2013, the company expects to post sales revenue of $208 million to $230 million -- an increase of about 20 percent from a year earlier. Consistent profits under Bagherli helped provide the funds for the $310 million acquisition of iWatt. He said the startup is expected to provide about $20 million of third-quarter revenue and is on a strong growth track with good margins. The thing they brought to Dialog was AC/DC conversion for mobile device chargers. Our experience was in DC/DC conversion Jalal Bagherli, CEO of Dialog Semiconductor. within the mobile equipment, so they are complementary. iWatt was one of the first companies to apply digital control to power conversion, which can reduce the components needed, and they have a large number of patents. The second thing is LED driver ICs for the retrofit light bulb market. It is a very hot market and not one that we were in. He also said the technology synergies open up possibilities to build off iWatt’s positions in power supplies and lighting. Quick charge wireless lighting control iWatt’s power capabilities will help Dialog address the “quickcharging” market, which requires that outboard chargers communicate with the onboard PMIC to determine the type of battery, how much charge it has, and the fastest safe rate of charging. It is a relatively simple conversation between the power converters. However, depending on the equipment types, it can reduce charging time by 50 percent or two-thirds, and that will be valued by equipment providers and customers, Bagherli said. And it is the right time to be engaging Standards are not yet in place. Companies like Qualcomm have their own standards for inside the phone. Apple will probably do their own corporate version, but this tends to leave third-party vendors struggling to support multiple versions. Being on both ends of the wire definitely helps. Interestingly, Bagherli is more cautious about wireless charging, which is starting to get quite a lot of discussion. “It’s a market that’s coming, but it is still fragmented. We have to wait.” Dialog has had a couple of R&D engagements in the US and Japan, but it could not really see a place for a sale inside mobile equipment. “It turns out that receiving the energy is pretty straightforward. The charging mat is the more significant engineering challenge, but iWatt makes that a proposition for us.” In lighting, he is eager to add Dialog’s short-range wireless capabilities to iWatt’s LED drivers. Dialog makes low-energy DECT and Bluetooth transceivers. Bagherli said wireless control of lighting will become significant because of the increased functionality it offers and the simplification of installation it allows. It is still a nascent market, so we do not need to back one standard over another. It is still a fragmented market with pockets of automation and differences between professional and domestic installations. The most important thing is to listen to the customers. The idea of listening to customers and not getting too far ahead of the market could be taken as a motto for Bagherli’s approach to business across the breadth of Dialog. Another thing iWatt brings is a customer base to which Dialog can now try and cross-sell its motherboard components. “Nokia, HTC, Motorola, Samsung -- we didn’t have any business with them prior to the acquisition.” Bagherli welcomes the fact that Nokia’s mobile device business is becoming part of Microsoft. (See: Microsoft to Buy Nokia Handset Business.) Microsoft will support the Windows Phone operating system for at least a few years, and that provides an additional sales opportunity. 12 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCT 2013
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