Report Pinpoints Price Parity for Digital Power Controller ICs

July 31, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

The Darnell Group announced that it has determined that digital power controller ICs will reach pricing parity with existing analog devices in 2008. This prediction is based on an analysis of the pricing of about 250 digital and analog power supply controller ICs between January 2004 and June 2007. In a little over 3 years (early 2004 to June 2007), average prices for digital power ICs have dropped from about $6 to under $3 today. Prices for digital controller ICs will continue to drop and are predicted to fall below $2 in the first half of 2008.

"Compiling a comprehensive database of digital and analog controller ICs was only the first step in this detailed analysis," observed Jeff Shepard, President of Darnell Group. "The resulting data looks like the prices are declining linearly. But more detailed analysis shows that is not the case.

"The digital price curve appears to be very steep and is rapidly approaching an intersection with the axis and would cross into negative territory. As prices for digital power ICs continue to decline and sales volumes continue to grow, the rate of price decline from year-to-year will slow. We have analyzed the pricing data and other factors in detail and have identified the impending price parity between digital and analog controller ICs," Shepard concluded.

"Moore’s Law" is driving the inevitability of digital over analog solutions. But Moore’s Law is only one factor that has contributed to the rapid drop in prices for digital controllers. At the same time that digital process technology is moving forward, the designs of digital controllers are evolving. The new IC designs are a major factor contributing to the falling prices for digital control ICs. Darnell Group has completed a detailed study of the commercial roll-out of digital controller ICs. This pricing study is only one aspect of the overall research effort that also included detailed analysis of the integration levels and features included in successive generations of digital power ICs.

The combination of pricing "parity" between digital and analog controller solutions, the anticipated introduction of increasing numbers of second-generation controllers, continued improvements in digital power software development GUIs, and so on, are signs that the digital power segment is nearing the end of the "Introduction" phase of the product life cycle. Accelerating growth will result from several factors, including improved comfort with and understanding of digital power technology and the introduction of second-generation digital control ICs with features better matched with the needs of specific application segments.

The first-edition of Darnell’s "Digital Power Electronics: IC Product Introduction Trends" report is now available.