Exclusive Interview with Rohde & Schwarz »We had to learn a new language«

Josef Wolf, Rohde & Schwarz: »Wir decken derzeit circa 60 Prozent des gesamten Oszilloskopmarktes ab. Dass wir uns damit nicht zufrieden geben, wird jeder vermuten, der uns kennt.«
Josef Wolf, Rohde & Schwarz: »We currently cover about 60 percent of the entire oscilloscope market. Anyone who knows us will assume that we are not satisfied with this.«

In June 2010, Rohde & Schwarz announced its decision to enter the oscilloscope business. This was a real surprise at the time, and it really stirred up the market. Today, it is impossible to imagine the oscilloscope market without the Munich-based company. Where does the company stand today?

Josef Wolf, Head of Oscilloscopes, Rohde & Schwarz, provides the answers.

Markt&Technik: Mr. Wolf, Rohde & Schwarz entered the oscilloscope segment ten years ago. How hard was the entry?

Josef Wolf: The entry hurdle was certainly high. We had decided to enter the 4 GHz class with products offering outstanding instrument performance. The main components of an oscilloscope - unless it is in the low-price segment - cannot be bought on the market. In order to make the device the way we wanted it, we had to develop them ourselves. The result is a single-core 10 GHz A/D converter, a front-end with very low noise and good dynamics, and a back-end ASIC that implemented the first digital trigger for any oscilloscope and could process one million waveforms per second. But we also had a lot of know-how to gain on the application and operation side. The team had a lot of experience with analysis in the frequency domain. This was clearly visible in the first device. The spectrum analysis function was as easy to use as a real spectrum analyzer - a feature unique to oscilloscopes at the time and very well received by our customers. Did the market show up as you expected it to? In principle, our assumptions proved to be correct. However, a market is not static and a lot has changed since Rohde & Schwarz entered the market. In the low-cost segment, for example, manufacturers from Asia have joined. The focus and investment behavior of established manufacturers has also changed.

When entering the market, the declared goal was to become number 3 in the market. Where do you stand today?

The market has become somewhat more complex, as not all major market participants provide their sales volumes for market statistics. But I am sure that Rohde & Schwarz is still growing the fastest. One reason for this is that we are constantly expanding our portfolio, i.e. serving segments that we have not served before. Today, our portfolio covers about 60 percent of the total market, making us more attractive for our customers. For example, with our first product we covered only 15 percent of the market. But we are also growing very satisfactorily, for example in the distribution segment, because after an admittedly tough start-up phase, we are receiving ever better responses from channel partners and are thus constantly expanding our footprint.

When entering a new market segment, you always anticipate a learning curve. What did this curve look like in your case?

The learning curve of how to build an oscilloscope was quite steep and, judging by the results, we were successful. An additional challenge was to learn the language of our customers in the time domain. In the frequency domain, we speak it fluently - both in development and sales. With the expansion of our product range towards more affordable devices, the logical consequence was the expansion of our sales force to include distribution channels. This was new for us and also required some learning experiences.

Looking back - what should you have done differently?

The basic approach was already right and I would do it again like this. We wanted to offer our customers added value and visible innovation to attract attention in the highly competitive oscilloscope market. And we succeeded: As newcomers, we were able to score with unique features such as fastest speed with one million waveforms/s, most precise triggering with a purely digital trigger or with the highest sensitivity. The handling, which was fully designed for touchscreen, was the most advanced at the time. In retrospect, of course, we could have made some details better. But I can see that we did a lot of things right by the fact that the competitors were forced to follow suit.