April 25, 2011
Texas Instruments Inc. muscled into the touch panel frenzy last week when the company announced new models of its ultra-low-power value line microcontrollers with built-in support for touchpads at prices as low as 33 cents.
TI has long been a leader in low-power, low-cost microcontrollers, but until now did not have specific models designed for touch-panel applications.
"Our new Value Line offers the first MCUs from TI with touch pad capabilities," said a TI spokesperson. "The Value Line G2xx2 and G2xx3 series are the first MCU devices with these capabilities."
Competitors have already swamped that market by adapting their microcontrollers to directly interface with touchpads, but adding TI to the fray ups the ante with its massive manufacturing and support capabilities.
According to IHS iSuppli, the market for touch solutions will top $3 billion in 2011, when touch sensing for mobile phones alone is expected to grow to 400 million units. That market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent, according to HIS.
Freescale has already added touchpad interfaces for both its Kinetis and its ColdFire microcontrollers, Silicon Labs claimed the low-power crown last year with its F9xx microcontroller and QuickSense library of common touchpad software routines and IDT announced its PureTouch technology which it developed after acquiring touch-panel specialists Leadis Technology Inc. in 2009.
Now that TI has claimed the low-power crown for touch-enabled microcontrollers with its MSP430 Value Line models, the competition is heating up. To match its competitors, TI also developed a library of touch algorithms for quickly prototyping capacitive touchpads including buttons, sliders, wheels and proximity sensors. The new touch library also works with TI's family of free downloadable software debuggers and compilers, including Code Composer Studio IDE and IAR Embedded Workbench.