Interview: David J. Aldrich, President and Chief Executive Officer, Skyworks Solutions

Jan. 25, 2013
David J. Aldrich, President and CEO of Skyworks Solutions, discusses his firm's inroads into the tablet segment.

NF: I understand that Skyworks is doing an increasing amount of business in the tablet or e-reader segment. Can you share any numbers with us? And how does this growing business compare with some of your legacy markets in wireless, such as cellular handsets?

DA: According to Morgan Stanley, tablet shipments could reach more than 350 million units by 2015. Much like smartphones, this market segment is performance-driven. It is serving as a gateway for e-commerce, on-demand content, location-based advertising, cloud-based services, and social networking. With an increasing number of tablets becoming cellular-enabled— particularly at fourth-generation (4G) data rates—IEEE 802.11ac connectivity will be prevalent. What’s interesting is that this product category did not exist just a few short years ago. Today, because the RF semiconductor requirements are similar to those of smartphones, it is complementary to our cellular handset business and generates substantial incremental revenue for Skyworks.

NF: How do you expect those numbers to grow?

DA: With the recent introduction of various screen sizes and lower price points, we expect tablet adoption rates to dramatically increase over the course of 2013 and beyond—clearly at the expense of traditional personal computers (PCs). Consumer appetite is for portable form factors that deliver fast web access and entertainment (video, audio, location-based services, etc.). These requirements bode well for tablets.

NF: What unique needs do tablets have in terms of design? And what challenges?

DA: There are numerous similarities between smartphones and tablets in terms of functionality. As a result, many of the analog-processing and power-management requirements are comparable. For high-end devices, it always comes down to performance and battery life.

NF: How has Skyworks overcome those challenges?

DA: We have extensive experience in RF and analog system design and a deep understanding of silicon-on-insulator (SOI), complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS), gallium-arsenide (GaAs), bipolar-field-effect-transistor (BiFET), and silicon-germanium (SiGe) process technologies. In addition, we have developed a library of nearly 1000 patents and supporting intellectual property (IP) and possess leading capabilities in advanced integration—including proprietary shielding, three-dimensional (3D) die stacking, and flip-chip technologies. With a long history of innovation, we have become accustomed to delivering increasingly smaller form factors and providing our customers with breakthrough system solutions. We partner with our customers to meet their need for analog and RF solutions that can solve the inherent problems in compact, mobile, high-performance devices, such as battery life, size, signal interference, and cost.

NF: I understand that the company has made some changes recently in hopes of more closely aligning its front-end and analog businesses. Can you tell us what inspired this change?

DA: The changes are all designed to more closely align our sales, product, technology, and marketing teams with
the end markets we serve. For example, it is the role of our marketing organization to ensure alignment between our technology roadmap and evolving systems requirements and standards. We are attempting to offer more complete system solutions that leverage our uniquely broad portfolio.

NF: How will this change affect the way that Skyworks operates this year?

DA: We are already seeing increased collaboration between our front-end solutions and high-performance analog teams as well as the benefits associated with a more streamlined organization.

NF: Will the firm be better prepared to pursue new opportunities in emerging markets, such as the medical field?

DA: Skyworks currently offers a broad portfolio of RF/microwave products for a diverse set of vertical markets including medical, automotive, smart energy, home automation, and wireless infrastructure. We will be looking to increase our dollar content per platform across these and other markets—particularly as we become better equipped to offer our customers complete system solutions.

NF: Are you considering new opportunities in some of the industrial markets?

DA: With wireless connectivity becoming pervasive across a growing number of consumer electronics, machine-to-machine applications, and home-automation systems—among others—we expect there to be an increasing number of opportunities in adjacent markets, such as industrial. As a result, we are effectively doubling down on several opportunities—not only to further diversify, but to enhance overall profitability.

NF: What cutting-edge applications is Skyworks currently targeting?

DA: There are several important technology trends to follow—all driven by our customers’ needs. Some of these include achieving higher levels of integration, envelope tracking, and carrier aggregation for mobile-device manufacturers. As always, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are seeking ways to incorporate all popular second- (2G), third- (3G), and 4G bands—as well as switches and filters—into a single module for an unprecedented level of integration and carrier coverage. This integrated approach will significantly reduce the amount of required design resources. Eventually, manufacturers will be able to utilize a single core design team to simultaneously release platforms for multiple markets.

NF: Does the company have any advice on restructuring?

DA: Under any circumstance, we believe it is important to always maintain focus on your customers. They are the single most important reason for your existence and what should be driving all of your business decisions and actions.

About the Author

Nancy Friedrich | Editor-in-Chief

Nancy Friedrich began her career in technical publishing in 1998. After a stint with sister publication Electronic Design as Chief Copy Editor, Nancy worked as Managing Editor of Embedded Systems Development. She then became a Technology Editor at Wireless Systems Design, an offshoot of Microwaves & RF. Nancy has called the microwave space “home” since 2005.

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