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Ixys revives Zilog amid a power trip

December 06, 2010 // Mark LaPedus

Ixys revives Zilog amid a power trip

MILPITAS, CA In 1983, several executives from General Electric's Intersil unit abruptly left that chip maker the same week and went their separate ways.

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One group, led by legendary chip executive Jack Gifford, left Intersil to form analog chip maker Maxim Integrated Products Inc. Nathan Zommer, a power IC executive who reported to Gifford at Intersil, also left the company and was part of a faction that formed Ixys Corp., the same week.

Initially, Maxim focused on the lower power segments of the analog market, and later, it became one of the darlings on Wall Street. Meanwhile, Ixys decided to concentrate on the higher power semiconductor market-where it drives everything from power supplies to trains-but it has generally flown under the radar.

Early last year, Maxim acquired the 32-bit microcontroller lines from Zilog Inc. Ironically, late last year, Ixys (Milpitas, CA) entered the unfamiliar spotlight by acquiring struggling microcontroller pioneer Zilog (San Jose, CA) for $62.4 million in cash. Ixys acquired Zilogs 8- and 16-bit lines, including the once-venerable Z8, which is now seen as a relic in the MCU world.

Now, Ixys is quietly reviving Zilog. Taking a page from Maxim, TI and others, Ixys is enabling customers to procure its power semiconductor lines and the digital control portions of the solution-Zilogs MCUs-under the same roof. Zilog is also developing new Z8 offerings and is hoping to bring a 16-bit MCU line back from the dead. It is also mulling over plans to re-enter the 32-bit space with an ARM-based technology.

In a recent interview at the companys headquarters here, Zommer, chairman and CEO of Ixys, said that Ixys can not only revive the Zilog brand, but it hopes to boost the units sales to $1 billion- per year.

Most-if not all-are skeptical Ixys can realize its lofty goals. In any event, Ixys itself is also expanding its core power semiconductor lines. It has recently rolled out a new power package type for its bread-and-butter IGBTs and power MOSETs. It has rolled out new products based on silicon carbide and gallium nitride (GaN). And it is expanding its chip sourcing alliance with a surprising foundry partner: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
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