Atheros to acquire GPS chip maker u-Nav

Atheros agreed to acquire GPS chip maker u-Nav for $US54 million.

Silicon vendor Atheros Communications has agreed to acquire u-Nav Microelectronics, a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip maker, for approximately $US54 million in cash and stock, the companies announced after the close of trading Thursday.

As GPS becomes part of the toolkit users are looking for in networked devices, Atheros wants to add that technology to its lineup. Customers of Atheros put its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips into notebooks, dual-mode phones and other products.

"GPS is something that these guys were asking us for," said Atheros Chief Financial Officer Jack Lazar.

Broadcom, a rival of Atheros, acquired GPS chipset maker Global Locate earlier this year. Atheros chose u-Nav because it makes a single-chip GPS system using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor), a standard technology that has been key to Atheros' own success in Wi-Fi, Lazar said. Using CMOS has helped to reduce the size and lower the cost of many types of chips.

Privately held u-Nav was founded in 2001 and is based in Irvine, California. Its approximately 54 employees will join Atheros but remain in Irvine and at u-Nav's European engineering facility in Tampere, Finland, Lazar said. Greg Winner, CEO of u-Nav, will become the head of Atheros' GPS business following the close of the deal, expected this month. Atheros is based in Santa Clara, California.

Although GPS is an obvious fit for cell phones, there are many reasons to put it in other devices too, Lazar said. For example, GPS in a notebook PC could be used by enterprises to track the PC, and a notebook with built-in GPS could serve as a personal navigation device without any external hardware. UMPC (ultramobile PC) devices for specific purposes such as construction already have GPS built in, Lazar said.

It should be possible in a year or two to integrate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS in a single chip, though Atheros probably wouldn't do that unless a customer asked for it, Lazar said.

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