White Goods and Woes

Reported by Cliff Keys, Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief, Power Systems Design



Welcome to this issue of PSD where we carry a feature section on white goods and domestic appliances. In former times these devices had no regard for energy efficiency or, in the case of motorized appliances, the noise they generated. These days are fast coming to an end. Regulations are ever tightening and consumers themselves are now becoming more concerned with the energy they consume - both from a cost and from an environmental standpoint. This is driving manufacturers of these appliances to demand better methods of power and motor control which, in turn, normally requires more sophisticated power and control management in the development of modern, consumer-friendly products. For the world's semiconductor suppliers, after six consecutive quarters of sequential growth, the fourth quarter of 2010 saw revenue contract by 3.7% over the previous period—the first quarterly retreat since the beginning of 2009—according to new research from IHS iSuppli. Revenues for the 298 semiconductor suppliers tracked by the IHS iSuppli Competitive Landscaping Tool (CLT) fell to $77.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, down from $80.1 billion in the earlier quarter. But this depressed revenue was still 11.9% higher than the fourth quarter of 2009. Despite the fourth-quarter contraction, semiconductor revenues surged by $74.5 billion in 2010, setting a new record and surpassing the prior record increase during the dot-com bubble of 2000. Apple fans are no-doubt aware that the company has managed to significantly reduce the thickness and weight of the iPad 2 by trimming the dimensions of several key components, most notably the battery, a teardown analysis by IHS iSuppli has revealed. This reduction in thickness of the battery subsystem is due to Apple moving from two thicker cells to three thinner ones, flattening out the entire battery structure. This refinement to the design spurred a 10-15% increase in its iPad 2 power-density, which is a measure of battery life relative to the mass of the battery. It shrinks the iPad 2's weight by 5 grams, while still delivering the same battery lifetime. The absolute horror of the earthquake in Japan, already well reported, certainly will continue to cause disruption to the global electronics market and has the potential to greatly impact the whole technology industry. We wish the people of that great nation well and will leave the daily reports to those best qualified. I hope you enjoy our new look and especially our new, user-designed website which is updated on a real-time basis. Check out the community section, naturally after our fun strip, Dilbert, at the back of the magazine. Thank you for your extremely helpful feedback, and please keep it coming. www.powersystemsdesign.com