Electronics Production | December 01, 2005
Power Discrete Maker Scores<br> With Microsoft Xbox 360
Much attention has been paid to the some of the bigger chips in Microsoft Corp.'s new Xbox 360 video game console, like IBM's microprocessor and ATI Technologies' graphics processor.
However, another supplier has made a major impact on the new video-game console with some less-glamorous but no less-important chips: ON Semiconductor Corp., which is providing key power-management discretes for the console. iSuppli Corp. is estimating that 10 million Xbox 360's will be sold in 2006, every one containing a power-management subsystem that has seven buck converters, each using some combination of 22 D-Pak 20V MOSFETs to do the bulk of the DC/DC conversion, plus a few linear regulators and LDOs thrown in for good measure. A dissection of the Xbox 360 conducted by iSuppli's Teardown Analysis Service reveals that ON Semiconductor has the bulk of that MOSFET business-by far. ON Semiconductor also won most of the controller and power IC business in the Xbox 360 In the Xbox 360 Premium console analyzed by iSuppli, ON's NCP5425DB dual sync buck controller, its NCP5331FTR2 2-phase controller/driver and a half-dozen of its LDOs were found. That leaves only a half dozen or so other parts to be shared among fellow Xbox 360 power-management semiconductor suppliers Philips, Vishay, Analog and Samsung. "ON Semiconductor now has more than $6 worth of parts in every Xbox shipped," noted Chris Ambarian, senior analyst, power-management, for iSuppli. "If ON remains the sole-source for these devices, the company stands to garner between $60 and $70 million in revenue from the Xbox 360 in 2006, representing a significant boost to the company's power-management business." Cost and second-sourcing likely are key considerations in determining which discretes might have a potential advantage. Certainly for Microsoft, which like other game-console manufacturers loses money on each console shipped, achieving the absolute minimum cost that can be attained in any given form factor is a key criterion. For Microsoft's equipment assembly subcontractors, which have operating margins in the neighborhood of 1 percent, any costs that can be driven out must be driven out. Given the very high volumes of products like video-game consoles, it can be presumed that Microsoft put a critical eye on the subject of DC/DC point-of-load conversion. In the face of this scrutiny, discrete D-Paks apparently have been deemed to be Microsoft's best option in this form factor. That is a strong statement for similar applications, and it issues a significant challenge to any technologies that wish to succeed in this market. In power, cost is still king. Having said that, second-sourcing is also a significant criterion on projects that are not even as large as the Xbox 360, and strategic procurement groups often will dictate that multiple sources be specified in order to ensure reliable supply and to encourage competition for the socket. For the most part, DC/DC converter modules have not really been truly second sourced, i.e., functionally swappable. So in theory at least, commodity discretes should have an advantage in this area. However, according to an ON Semiconductor spokesperson-although Microsoft intended to have multiple sources for the power FETs, and even though in theory it is possible to have multiple sources for D-Pak power FETs-it is looking more and more like ON will in fact be the sole source for the Xbox 360.