Mixed signals come in many forms. For example, semiconductor designer Silicon Labs
Its latest earnings report, delivered toward the end of October, looked splendid: Last year's losses turned into a small profit on the back of 11% stronger sales, and margins increased across the board. But looking to the future, CEO Necip Sayiner said that the company is "at the beginning of several strong potential product cycles in both our mobile handset and broad-based mixed-signal businesses." As a result, "the near-term outlook remains relatively muted, and we feel very good about the long-term growth potential and health of the business."
Time out! At a first glance, this makes no sense. Why would the short-term business look slow when the company is ramping up several "strong potential product cycles?" The potential for future success is undeniable, since Silicon Labs makes parts for everything from set-top entertainment boxes to cell phones. Its largest customer is Korean electronics giant Samsung, but the client roster also includes generous helpings of business from Apple Computer
So let's have a look at what these large customers have in the works. Apple, for one, will introduce a set-top box with streaming media functionality after the new year. That's a long-awaited Apple product, and one potential delayed boost for Silicon Labs. Samsung and Motorola keep launching media-heavy phone models, the kind where mixed-signal processing comes in very handy. And Thomson bought the RCA brand of consumer electronics from General Electric
Now, I can't say whether all of these new products -- or any of them -- will contain Silicon Labs components. But Sayiner would presumably have some visibility into that issue, although he's not sharing it with us. So my assumption here must be that the CEO knows about exciting future products with Silicon Labs inside, but they're not launching within the next quarter or two. Then both the short-term warning and long-term excitement make sense, and it's not an unreasonable explanation, to boot.
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