Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CEO Interview: Steve Sanghi, Microchip

While “Intel Inside” has been a huge marketing success, “Microchip Inside”—a tag line I just made up—has been a huge sales success. While you may have one Intel processor inside your notebook computer, chances are you have dozens of Microchip microcontrollers around the house—in your washer, dryer, refrigerator, thermostat, even your kids’ toys. Microchip has long dominated the 4- and 8-bit MCU markets and is now a serious player in 16- and 32-bit devices as well. They’re also nicely profitable.

It wasn’t always so. When Steve Sanghi took over the helm at Microship 18 years ago, the company was so dysfunctional as to be moribund. As Sanghi tells it, “We had problems in sales, financial issues, product roadmap issues, technology issues, quality, reliability and others.” Sanghi designed the Aggregate System—the subject of the 2006 book Driving Excellence—an enterprise-wide constant improvement plan that turned the company from a basket case into an industry leader.

Portable Design asked Sanghi about some of the challenges Microchip is currently facing: How do you support thousands of customers in horizontal markets? Why choose from among 500 MCUs when I can use a single programmable one? Aren’t SoCs going to crowd dedicated MCUs off of the PC board? Sanghi had a ready answer to these and other questions. Suffice it to say he sees a large and growing role for Microchip MCUs in portable devices. Considering how consistently Microchip has been right, I wouldn’t recommend betting against the house.