InvenSense (NYSE: INVN ) reported its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, disappointing investors with lower than expected net income and poor near-term guidance. Nonetheless, the long-term investment thesis appears to be intact for the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) MEMS supplier.
The company continues to invest in its technology in an effort to gain share in the growing motion sensor and motion tracking market. Additionally, the company is working to court new customers, one of which is rumored to be Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) . Ever heard of it?
CEO Behrooz Abdi had a lot to say on the company's conference call regarding the company's strategic spending and outlook on key markets. Here are the five quotes InvenSense investors must hear.
The company certainly stepped up its R&D spending during fiscal 2014. That's, in part, why it missed expectations on the bottom line. Abdi believes the spending is justified as it supports the company's long term strategy:
Our strategy [is] to transition from a MEMS motion sensor company to a MotionTracking solutions company offering a full suite of motion and audio system on chip, or SoC, and embedded software.
Abdi expects that integrating its hardware with software will allow the company to command a premium for its products.
As mentioned, R&D spending at InvenSense increased substantially. First quarter R&D spending increased more than 150% year over year. Abdi explains his reasoning:
One of our key initiatives in fiscal 2014 was to increase investment in R&D to support three primary areas of activity: new product development, expansion of our software and algorithm capabilities that extend our competitive differentiation, and the increased costs associated with extensive new customer qualification activities.
These three areas will give InvenSense a competitive advantage and ought to lead to market share gains in the long-term.
Abdi indicated that the increased R&D spend is already paying off with new design wins:
During fiscal 2014, we invested considerably in new customer qualification and test activities that we expect to yield significant growth and market share gains in fiscal 2015. We are excited about the incremental opportunity for InvenSense and believe that the design wins that resulted from these efforts underscore our technology leadership.
Many have speculated that at least one of these designs are with Apple. It may provide MotionTracking solutions for the next iPhone, or it may provide chips for the rumored iWatch. Either way, diversifying its revenue with Apple would likely provide a huge boost to both the top and bottom lines of InvenSense.
Another means for revenue growth could be the adoption of the company's 2-axis gyroscope solutions including optical image stabilization, or OIS. That growth will come slowly, however, as only the smaller OEMs are picking up OIS designs.
I've always said that the Tier 1s will take more time -- perhaps another year or 2 years -- to adopt [OIS]. ... So more of Tier 2, Tier 3s, we are seeing wider adoption. We see quite a bit of adoption -- not just in Korea, but also in China -- companies that want to bring the camera experience as a differentiated experience.
We saw Samsung pass on OIS for its flagship Galaxy S5, and nearly every high-end phone opts to focus on other areas. Abdi believes Tier 1 OEMs will adopt OIS eventually, but in the near term it will be harder to win share.
Wearables as an in with OEMS
Throughout the call, Abdi spoke of the design advantages InvenSense has in wearables -- size, low power consumption, AlwaysOn. He doesn't believe that design wins in wearables are necessarily a backdoor to attract business in smartphones:
The big guys, if they select you, they're usually looking at you through the front door. So it's not the reason to select us, on its path to eventually get there, but we certainly see more opportunity on the wearables just because of the size, performance and some of the other things that we're doing in that market.
InvenSense has already captured significant share of the next generation wearable market with its design wins at Samsung and LG. The company's chips are in the first generation Galaxy Gear as well as the second generation Gear 2 and Gear Fit. The market is relatively small still -- only about 1.2 million Android watches sold last year, but Samsung took the majority.
A long-term bet
InvenSense's long-term investment thesis remains strong despite its poor results and weak near-term outlook. Abdi asserts that these strategic moves will pay off in the long run in the form of market share gains, new customers, and new designs. I'm inclined to agree, and as the demand for motion sensing, motion tracking, and voice control grow, InvenSense is in a great position to capitalize.
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