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When all you have is a hammer...

Posted 28th June 2011 at 06:36 AM by abraxalito
Updated 8th September 2011 at 03:10 AM by abraxalito

... as the saying goes, everything starts to look like a nail. That's what's happened to me now I've started to look at business through the eyes of disruptive innovation. Its all around, everywhere I look I'm seeing signs of what I call 'disruptive stress'. Perhaps just 'disstress' would be the right term for it - businesses are disstressed.

Nokia is one big business, but its quite clear they are disstressed, big-time. Their 'cooperation' with Microsoft can only lead to one thing - being embraced and swallowed whole and digested as Boa Constrictors are wont to do. Wikipedia says of the Boa :

The size of the prey item will increase as they get older and larger.

OK Nokia's not of great interest to audio guys, so how about one a little closer to home? This morning in my inbox I received the regular missive from EETimes, replete with the latest gossip from the semiconductors world. Topping the bill - Freescale, with its monstrous debt pile. They won't last long - an interest rate hike will act like a generously sized injection of Sodium Pentothal. The commenters on that piece were not slow to pick this up either, nor were they particularly impressed by the expensive show the company put on to reposition itself. When your knickers are in a twist most people will retire to a secluded spot to sort out the underwear malfunction. Not so Freescale, they prefer to ask people to pay $1200 a ticket for a front row seat. Freescale's not so interesting these days although they used to be fairly key in digital audio back in the heyday of the DSP56000 series.

I've saved the juiciest morsel til last - anyone know Wolfson Microelectronics? Better be prepared to say your farewells if so, because they're a classic example of a disstressed company. The second item in the EETimes newsletter was about Wolfson giving a 'trading update notice'. What's the big deal? I hear you say - times are hard, there's a recession on. Yep, well spotted. Well here's the skinny :

On April 27 Wolfson had guided the second quarter revenue would be between $37 million and $45 million and had said the broad range was the result of uncertainty over customers' product ramps and about the impact of the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake of March 2011.

And now? Well here's what they say:

Wolfson's trading note said that as a result of lower customer sales and delays in product introductions the company now expected 2Q11 revenue of between $37 million and $39 million.

So the range only got tighter? WTF? Why release something when what you said before was pretty much on the money? As a result of this notice we got :

The share price lost almost a quarter of its value on its opening on the London Stock Exchange Monday morning.

The markets were spooked, so obviously its coded language I don't quite get yet as a mere greenhand in this game of company watching. My curiosity was piqued so I clicked on one of the related (old news) links which caught my eye:

Wolfson licenses TinyCore DSP from Oxford

Here is where CMC's prism allows us to see what's going on much more clearly. Wolfson has signed a deal to license Oxford Digital's (incidentally I was once employed by a former incarnation of that company ) DSP IP. And here's how they spin it:

"We selected Oxford Digital's TinyCore DSP due to its efficiency at executing certain key high-definition audio algorithms, which our customers tell us provide them with a differentiator in their market place," said Eddie Sinnott, portfolio director at Wolfson

At first reading, sounds like total bollocks this 'high definition audio' - what's wrong with CD? A bit more clicking reveals this is about trying to put better quality DACs into notebook computers. Anyone who's connected a notebook computer directly to an amp will know the DAC quality isn't the limiting issue here. So what customers are those who are asking for this? Simple answer - the ones being disrupted by the iPad and tablets and mobile computing in general. So disstressed companies are passing their stress down the line and Wolfson, being a relatively small minnow, cops it.

Wolfson - you're dying because you're listening to your customers. This is exactly what CMC talks about in his book. Companies can't change their customers any quicker than leopards can change their spots. Adios, Wolfson - the WM8805 was by most accounts the best single chip SPDIF receiver on the planet too.
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  1. Old Comment
    Esstech is even smaller...
    Posted 2nd July 2011 at 02:42 PM by glt glt is offline

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