Evolution In Action: FM Chip Maker Projects $100 Million Sales

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chipbugAt first the big brass over at Silicon Laboratories Inc. was skeptical about the idea of FM receiver chips. Company vice president Tyson Tuttle had some convincing to do, and fortunately for all involved he was successful. That was back in in 2004.

Flash Forward to 2006: The first wave of the company’s multifunction chips generated $40 million in revenue. They’ve been kicking bass and taking names ever since. As a matter of fact, the success has driven growth in Tuttle’s development team as well, which now numbers a 200-person staff in offices across the globe.

Tuttle is a passionate driving force behind the FM chips. Kirk Ladendorf, the influential technology reporter at the daily Austin (TX) American-Statesman (Statesman.com) characterizes him thusly:

The company keeps pushing forward fast on FM because vice president Tyson Tuttle won’t let it slow down. Tuttle created the company’s FM business from scratch and still prowls the aisles of stores such as Fry’s Electronics to find more products that his chips can go into.

“The market for radios is like a billion units a year, and it is only half in cell phones,” Tuttle said. “We are finding applications for these chips that we never thought of when we started out.”

Four years ago this was visionary, now it is a standard, particularly in the overseas markets and increasingly here in the states. It is a show of the ubiquity of radio that FM reception is considered an oddity when absent. As one friend of mine said recently, “Radio is conspicuous in its absence, and people do notice.  The reaction generally seems to be, ‘how could you miss that? Its basic!'”

Mr. Tuttle is to be applauded. His efforts have Silicon Labs projecting revenue of more than $100 million this year on its radio reception chips. I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing what else their multifunction processors are able to do in another year or so. This is what I mean when I talk about the Evolution of Radio!

Photo courtesy of Oskay, used under its Creative Commons license

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