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Texas Instruments Flees Mobility: What?!

Recent news stories are suggesting that Texas Instruments is moving away from mobile. This comes as a surprise as the OMAP processor line seemed so directly targeted at applications like smartphones and tablets. The OMAP 4 went into the Droid Razor and the Kindle Fire. The OMAP 5 is soon to launch with a Cortex-A15 at 28 nm. This product line seemed so destined for great things in mobile, one wonders what could have possibly changed.

The answer: a lot. The iPhone 5 crushed sales expectations. Samsung is reeling from its courtroom loss to Apple, but still charging forward with a mobile processor plant right in Austin, Texas, a stone’s throw away from TI’s headquarters in Dallas. While TI has some partnerships with Samsung, it seems clear that Samsung wants to make its own processors going forward. Meanwhile Qualcomm and NVIDIA have both been gobbling up design wins in numerous smartphones. And as if the room was not crowded enough, Intel is charging into this space as well. Intel’s processors are now in phones from India to Russia to the UK. And we can rest assured that Intel is building momentum to strike into the heart of new-age mobility, the US market, as well.

I like to imagine a scenario in which TI’s top guys were all sitting around, sipping their Seattle’s Best, and watching the marketing team rattle off market shares and the information I’ve outlined above. Suddenly, some executive lurches to his feet and cries out,

“What? So many competitors? Where’s the margin in mobile? This is madness!”

This is followed by much scrambling and a flurry of questions as the executive team redirects its product strategy. Of course, the reality was probably far more mundane and based on rigorous Excel spreadsheet analysis and statistics. But at the end of the day, the writing was on the wall. The future opportunity in mobile just did not look as tantalizing as it did a few years back.

So, where will TI take its OMAP processor line? It appears it will be more fully integrated with its traditional embedded processing group. In terms of vertical markets, automotive infotainment is a strong possibility. Many of the infotainment device requirements are the same: low power, connectivity, and interactive displays. What’s more, Texas Instruments already has a strong pedigree in the automotive space, with numerous MCUs throughout embedded automotive systems and safety features. The OMAP processors have performance and graphics capabilities that will likely give it an edge going into infotainment. Regardless of which segments it ultimately targets, it will be interesting to see how TI re-crafts its OMAP product line to focus on these new segments in order to bring new innovative technology to market.   

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