A two-decade journey from ON Semiconductor to onsemi

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

A Motorola spin-off has come a long way from its focus on standard discrete, logic and analog chips while it charts a new course as onsemi.

ON Semiconductor, Motorola’s former Semiconductor Components Group, which spun off as a separate company in 1999 to focus on standard discrete, logic and analog semiconductors, has come a long way when the chipmaker is rebranding itself as onsemi. In between these two corporate milestones came the 2015 acquisition of its main competitor—Fairchild Semiconductor—in its quest to become the premier supplier of power management and analog semiconductor solutions.

The original name was chosen by an independent consultant, mainly because its products focused on power, hence the ON. However, as the Internet and search era took hold in the coming years, there has been a realization that it’s not a good name for search. Hence the new name onsemi.

It’s a company with humble beginnings that developed a sound strategy and clear vision over the years with a relentless focus on analog and power discrete products. At the time of its inception, Steve Hanson, the former head of Motorola’s Semiconductor Components Group and the new chief of ON Semiconductor, aimed to make the company the “Home Depot” of the components industry.

ON Semiconductor covered analog ICs for power supplies and logic for digital computing and communications systems besides a large discrete semiconductor portfolio. Initially, industry observers were skeptical about the new company’s merits for building a business on commodity products. Especially, when the dot-com turmoil hit the industry soon after its launch.

However, its unrelenting focus on high-end discrete products paid off and even opened new doors in the power semiconductors corridor. Soon, it started to be recognized as an analog and mixed-signal specialist. Meanwhile, ON Semiconductor’s parent, Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector, lost into oblivion after being spun off as Freescale Semiconductor and later being gobbled up by NXP.

During this time, ON Semiconductor hasn’t been sitting on its laurels. It made more than a dozen acquisitions to bolster its current offerings and enter new markets like image sensors. Then came the Fairchild Semiconductor deal that catapulted the company to the runner-up position in power semiconductors following Infineon.

Fast forward to 2021, the new “onsemi” is focusing on intelligent power and sensing technologies. Will it be different from the old “ON Semiconductor”? The company’s newly appointed CEO Hassane El-Khoury gave some hints in the press release announcing the new company name. While the company will continue its focus on the automotive and industrial end-markets, it will sharpen its strategy on net-zero segments such as vehicle electrification, alternative energy, and factory automation.

That also underpins a renewed focus on wideband gap (WBG) materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors. The company’s recent collaboration with GaN Systems is a testament to this strategic shift.

This article was originally published on Planet Analog.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.


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