Cirrus Logic (NASDAQ:CRUS) released its fiscal third-quarter earnings results earlier this week, and the conference call the company hosted was full of great information regarding the company's outlook for the audio-processing market. After it was revealed that Cirrus lost an SoC, or system on chip, in Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad Air to Maxim Integrated Products (NASDAQ:MXIM), analysts had a few questions on Cirrus' competitive advantages going forward.
Chief executive Jason Rhode made it clear that, in the long term, Cirrus expects to beat the competition. (But, really, what do you expect him to say?) Here are three quotes from the call every Cirrus Logic investor should hear.
Much was made of Cirrus' lost SoC to Maxim in the iPad Air. One analyst asked where Cirrus' competitive advantage was.
As a general trend, the type of value that we're adding with the signal processing in order to help make any given speaker a little bit louder, to boost up the battery voltage, and get more power into the speaker. And that tends to add a lot more value the smaller the form factor gets.
Cirrus doesn't expect to win 100% of the audio-amplifier market, and in larger-form factors like the iPad Air the engineering problem is not as difficult to solve considering the increased speaker size and air volume. Note, Cirrus kept the socket on the iPad mini and the iPhone.
Maxim's design isn't necessarily better, but it's good enough and was supposedly less expensive for Apple. Although this design win doesn't have a huge impact on Maxim, it will put price pressure on Cirrus in larger devices and in automobiles -- a market of increasing interest. As smart devices get smaller -- watches, glasses -- Cirrus' competitive advantage may see it winning more designs.
Cirrus Logic is currently in the midst of transition. Its pricing structure with Apple was much worse in calendar 2013, resulting in some negative trends in revenue and earnings. Looking ahead, however, the company expects the transition effects to hit a trough this year and to continue growing in the future.
We're certainly expecting a good if unexciting year this year as we build a platform toward a lot more growth in the further out years.
Research and development expenses increased nearly 10% year over year last quarter, and the company is investing in its future. It sees plenty of opportunities both with its biggest customer, Apple, and outside of Cupertino, Calif.
It sees particular opportunities on the low-end with Chinese manufacturers, as each company looks to differentiate itself in the growing market. Cirrus offers leading audio-processing technology that can allow Chinese manufacturers to produce better sounding phones or even add voice control in the mid- to high-end devices.
On voice control
Cirrus sees its biggest opportunity in the proliferation of voice control. The company is supremely confident that the market is heading in this direction, and the trend in smartphones is just the beginning:
I think the beachhead has already been taken in phones and there's a lot of opportunities for us.
After smartphones, Rhode sees opportunity in automotives, where Bluetooth currently offers a sub-par solution. Additionally, Cirrus leads the industry in low-power voice wakeup implementation -- an always-on solution like that found in Google Glass. Cirrus' technology advantage that lends itself to smaller devices fits perfectly with that model, and the company could see its revenue per device climb if voice-controlled wearables take off.
Even where Cirrus lags, it has the opportunity to capitalize on the proliferation of voice control with its acquisition of Acoustic Technology last quarter. The company's software helps filter out background noise to achieve clearer voice recognition, and it's compatible with most any DSP chip.
The long run
Cirrus is currently going through a transition, and faces pressure from competition in the smartphone market, which is driving its gross margin and revenue down, but management is focused on the long run. As Rhode said on the conference call, "we absolutely run the company to build value over the long run." After an 8% drop in the stock price post-earnings, the stock looks incredibly cheap. If you believe in the management, this may be a buying opportunity.