You already stated in the spring that Renesas is gaining market share in the 16-bit segment, which is considerable, since Renesas entered the market with 16-bit variants very late. Why is Renesas gaining market share here, or to put it another way: who wants 16-bit MCUs today?
Here is all about the price and performance trade-off, you would be hard-pressed to sell 32-bit performance for the price of 16-bit. There are several applications such as low-end motor-control, low end HMI, home-automation, etc. where a 16-bit MCU offers a tremendous price advantage. But even if prices were to be reduced further for 32-bit, some of our 16-bit product variants are based on a proprietary core and there are customers who want to stay with it, also because they don't want to change their layout.
But where does the gain in market share come from?
There are several reasons. First and foremost a more focused sales & distribution strategy going after a broader base of customers, second by bundling our MCU’s with our analog and power products, and third our focus on creating winning combos (system solutions integrating MCU with analog products) has led to near-term gains. For the mid-term and long-term we have filled our gaps in the RL78 family in the low pin-count range. Thanks to an effective manufacturing and sourcing strategy, we can now offer cost-effective components. At the same time, we are expanding the high-end, which means that the next generation of RL78 will be equipped with a lot more functionality. All in all, we can now address the market much more broadly, which is also our declared goal: We want to act as a supplier with a broad product range here and not just serve selected major customers. On the other ends of the spectrum, thanks to an expanded product spectrum, we can also serve the low-end 32-bit and high-end 8-bit markets with this family.
Many of the newer products just described were launched the end of 2019 or the beginning of this current year so are still in the design-in phase. In other words, today's success is not at all based on portfolio expansion, but on the fact that our sales team is addressing a much larger market in a more focused way and not just a few large customers. However, the newer products will set our roadmap for longer-term success.
Renesas has put a lot of time and money into Synergy, has the MCU family met expectations?
No, the expectations were not met. I think we misunderstood back then what our customers really wanted. We thought they wanted complete system solutions that didn't require them to make any code modifications. But that was wrong. What they really want are flexible solutions. There is a need for it, but not what we expected.
With the FSP (Flexible Software Package) for the RA family, we took a different path, with the emphasis on user experience, so that developers can use these products easily. In addition, we are increasingly focusing on Open Source. This means that the RA family offers much more flexibility, both in terms of the core, but also on the software side with partnerships with Microsoft or Amazon, for example.
How do you rate RISC-V?
Soon, we will announce our first partnership for RISC-V, covering the low-end area in the 32-bit segment.
Where do you see the biggest differentiators for Renesas?
With Renesas’ MCU and MPU families, developers can access Renesas’ proprietary cores starting on the low-end RL78 up to the RX families, then the RE, RA and RZ families are based on ARM cores, RE on Cortex-M0+, RA on Corex-M4, -M23 or -M33 and soon with the next ARM core in this segment, and RZ is available with the A53 all the way to the A76. We also differentiate ourselves in terms of security, efficient power consumption and lower BOM cost on the MCU side, and on the MPU side, real-time control capability, image recognition and energy harvesting.
The MCUs/MPUs are only one part of the business…
MPUs and MCUs are the core of everything we do. And all acquisitions we have made support this core area. We now also cover the complete range of MCUs/MPUs, starting with power, through sensors, to data transmission and the subsequent local analysis and actuation.
In the power area we have excellent technologies such as our energy harvesting technology SOTB or the ultra-low power technology from Ex-Intersil and wireless power from Ex-IDT. In addition, sensors and ICs for signal conditioning, SSC for short, are available. Many people are not even aware that Renesas also covers this area. This is where we benefit from the ZMDi acquisition from IDT, because it gives us access to sensors for humidity, CO2, temperature, etc. and SSCs. In addition, Renesas' original analog business with disk drive controllers and motor controller business is also interesting. This enables us to address applications such as brushless DC motors, which are now much more attractive than motors with brushes and are moving into many applications, from electric vehicles to vacuum cleaners.
In the field of data transmission, we have technologies that allow data to be transmitted over short and long distances. We have recently announced an IC with BL5.0, and at the end of the year we will also launch a chip with NB-IoT, and we have products for 6LoWPan and WiSun. In addition, we have a strong timing and memory interface portfolio.
And when it comes to actuation and local data analysis, we use our ICs for energy management, smart home, smart metering etc. and of course to tackle AI at the end-point we have our DRP and eAI solutions.