Reader question: Why is the data converter market dominated by six US companies?


Who’s making a splash in the data converter market?

The Q&A section on this blog might not be too visible, but as you can see here, it actually works: steve asks this interesting question:

Why the $3B data converter market is dominated by the six US companies: ADI, TI, Maxim, LinearTech, National Semi and Intersil. Have any one heard of any data converter companies out of the US?

… and I felt it deserved a dedicated post where you can all have your say. So, what do you all think? And what other companies have you heard of? Do you even agree with steve that it is these six that dominate? If not, who are?

Edit: I’ll be working on the list(s) below, trying to get it as complete as I possibly can. With your help it should work. Just keep suggesting data converter companies to add here. My proposal is to limit the list to companies that provide stand-alone data converters and/or data converter IP. Companies providing data-converter related design services and expert consulting could of course be interesting too, and perhaps go into a second list. [That way I can include my own company, ADMS Design too 😉 ]

Edit 2011-04-09: As you might have heard, Texas Instruments is to acquire National Semiconductor. Read more about it here.

And then there were only five … 😉

The “Big Six”

As the question was asked by steve, we get the following list of six US data converter companies – dubbed the “Big Six” by jjwikner below – that (supposedly) dominate the ADC and DAC market. Here in alphabetical order:

The list is not written in stone. Have your say below. Should it be the big 3, 4, 5, 7 instead? How about data converter IP dominance – is that a completely different list of companies? And don’t forget the original question: why are all of these companies US-based? Something in the US water? Engineering tradition? Business culture? Choice of target applications? Are the leading Asian companies keeping their designs for in-house use, or did they simply bypass the stand-alone converter phase altogether? Are they now positioning themselves for the inevitable embedded data converter era by developing IP blocks for SoC designs?

The complete list?

To the best of my knowledge, and with the kind help of my blog readers, this is the “complete list” (*) of companies offering data converter IP or stand-alone parts. Again, in alphabetical order, and with the Big Six included:

(*) Allow the list a reasonable settling time constant, and please send me an email or post a comment below if you know of any company not included in the list, or have any other remarks.

NB: I have not necessarily made an assessment of the individual companies included in the list, and the list is therefore no statement of the quality or suitability of the products/IP offered for a particular purpose, nor an endorsement of the company itself.

The list seems very US and Euro-centric, but that’s my current horizon. I’m sure there must be some Asian companies out there. Scientific activity actually suggests that Asia is going to take over this business eventually. So, please enlighten me! Where are those Asian companies?

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28 responses to “Reader question: Why is the data converter market dominated by six US companies?

  1. Well … it’s getting late here in Sweden (1:50), so I won’t go into the question of dominance before having some sleep.

    On companies outside of US, here’s a first addition from me (although they aren’t around anymore):

    I used to do work for a Swedish company called Sicon Semiconductor that had a strong ADC focus and a very skilled design team. Unfortunately they went bankrupt during the financial crisis. Their technology was bought by Zoran.

    … so I guess it went to US, then …

    OK, but I’ll come back with more tomorrow. In the meantime, perhaps others can add to the list [first comment will need moderation though, so you won’t see it until I’m back at the keyboard again]. Don’t be shy to promote your own companies.

  2. Can the answer be really simple: These companies just happen to be very good at what they are doing, and therefore they dominate the scene?

    For what it’s worth, my impression is that these companies have very good design teams, and they are also very skilled on the business side.

  3. What about IPs? Are the Big Six also dominating the ADC IP-market? At least three (?) of the six mentioned are more or less reluctant to go that path.

    Another non-US (well …) company: NXP with a few ADCs available. I have another few on the top of my head, but I’ll leave it for other posters…

    Also, as I feel a bit flattered by your comment, Mr. Converterpassion, I should mention that quite a bit of the skills from the Sicon era are now continued at Anacatum where new generations of ADCs are currently being developed.

  4. … and I left Anacatum for you to mention 🙂

  5. I slept with a small note pad next to me, because as I was going to bed a lot of company names started popping up. NXP is the first name on that list, and perhaps one of the larger of those not on the “Big Six” list, that also offer stand-alone parts.

    I’ll get back with more …

    Everyone: The “Big Six list” is not necessarily written in stone – it too is up for discussion if you so wish.

  6. Please note the major edit in the post:
    The Big Six, and the Complete list sections added.

  7. Cactus Custom Analog Design (CCAD) added to the list.

  8. Research on ADCs is also ongoing in Europe. In the Benelux, which we are part of, low-power ADC is quite a hot topic :-), recent publications support this. For a company to be successful, a serious investment and a strong long-term focus is required. The big companies do have a good bases on the core competence however cooperation with other smaller companies might boost their capabilities. Now the commercial part; don’t hesitate to contact Axiom IC when you are looking for innovative IP and know-how on low-power high-resolution and high-speed ADC/DAC, or if you can add value to this great company !!

  9. BTW: I was looking for a source on the “$3B” value, and found a press release from ADI suggesting $2.4 billion 2010 with average growth 9% through 2015, so ~$2.6 billion 2011. I don’t know if this number includes IP as well, or just stand-alone parts.

    Anyone that has a link to other sources?

  10. … and with the 46% market share claimed in the above mentioned press release, perhaps it would be mora appropriate to talk about the “Big One” rather than the “Big Six” 🙂 … what do you all think?

    [This should hopefully trigger some of my friends within “The Other Five” to start commenting here … 😉 ]

  11. S3 Group added to the list.

  12. I am surprised nobody mentioned ChipIdea (acquired Nordic Semiconductor, then became part of MIPS and now Synopsys) since it was one of the first companies that provided ADC IPs and was European… Now Synopsys provides ADC and DAC IPs.

  13. Since the ChipIdea web site redirects to Synopsys, I’ll add Synopsys to the list.

  14. Added
    – Cactus IC design Associates
    – Cadeka
    – Synopsys

  15. While building the “complete list” addresses the second part of steve’s question, the first part (why the big six dominate) is also interesting.

    Let’s rephrase it to “What made these companies so successful in the data converter business?“. It would be particularly interesting to hear directly from any of the leading companies how you view your path to success in this market – although I fully understand if you don’t want to share the complete recipe 🙂

  16. Added:
    – Asahi Kasei Microdevices
    – Austria Microsystems
    – Cirrus Logic

  17. Added:
    – CoCo Chip IC Design Services

  18. Added:
    – Custom Silicon Solutions (CSS). Thank you Michael for the info.

    Comment: CSS have hidden the fact that they offer data-converter IP quite well on their web site, but at the time of writing DACs are listed under ‘Other Macro Cell Functions’, towards the end of this page:

    http://www.customsiliconsolutions.com/products-for-ASIC-solutions/IP-products.aspx

    Sorry CSS, but this is Converter Passion, so the comment was inevitable 😉

  19. Thanks, Bill.
    You’re in.

  20. Mobility Semiconductor added.
    http://www.mobilitysemi.com/

    Thanks to Shiv!

  21. New additions:
    ESS Technology: http://www.esstech.com/
    Chipus: http://www.chipus-ip.com/

    Thanks to Robert (ESS) and Murilo (Chipus)!

  22. Cambridge Analog Technologies, thanks to Matthew:
    http://www.cambridgeanalog.com/

  23. Some changes in the list:
    – Cactus IC Design Associates changed name to SandChip Semiconductor Design Associates (http://www.sand-chip.com/)
    – Cactus Custom Analog Design changed name to Cactus Semiconductor (http://www.cactussemiconductor.com/)

    2012-05-09: Comment was edited by Converter Passion

  24. Added:
    – Kapik Integration
    – STMicrolectronics

    after suggestion from Dhariyash Rathod. Thank you!

    Regarding STMicroelectronics, they have only 3 ADCs on offer, and appear to be phasing them out. [You are welcome to correct me if I’m wrong] But at the time they still have at least one ADC that is ‘active’.

  25. The converter market is not dominated by 6 companies. It’s dominated by one — Analog Devices. Analog Devices converter market share is greater than its next 8 competitors combined.

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