Inside Secure to Relaunch IPO; Announces 20 Million NFC Chip Shipments and New Customer
Inside Secure today announced it has shipped 20 million NFC chips the past 12 months and said its chips will be used by a leading phone maker on a major mobile platform–as it seeks to build interest in its renewed IPO.
Inside plans to announce the relaunch of its initial public offering process tomorrow in Paris, seven months after postponing the IPO, citing financial turmoil in the Eurozone. Despite ongoing European debt woes, the France-based chip maker believes the time is right in the NFC industry to go public.
In its announcement today, Inside did not identify the new major phone maker or platform that will use its NFC chips, saying only it's a leading phone maker that will introduce a smartphone by mid-2012 using Inside’s MicroRead chip and its NFC software stack. Inside said it would be a “next-generation” handset and would run “one of the most widely used mobile operating systems under license.”
This would appear to narrow down the platforms to either Windows Phone from Microsoft or Android from Google.
The Windows Phone platform could be considered next generation, since the first NFC models on the platform are expected to be shipped on the Windows Phone 8 version of the operating system later this year, the follow-up to the present Windows Phone 7. The speculation is, however, that Windows 8 will not be released until later in 2012.
If Windows Phone is the platform for the new smartphone carrying Inside’s chips, then Nokia, the major backer of Windows Phone, would be the likely phone maker. Nokia’s venture capital arm has invested in Inside in the past, including the chip supplier’s last funding round, closed in September 2010. Nokia has used chips from Inside's chief rival, NXP Semiconductors, for its NFC-enabled Symbian phones, but might be ready for a change with a move to Windows Phone.
NXP has had a virtual lock on chip shipments to Android phone makers, a fact Inside complained about just last month. Inside recently introduced a new version of its NFC software stack for Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.
While major Android phone maker Samsung Electronics, which has been using NXP NFC chips, appears unlikely to change suppliers, there are other major Android phone makers, such as HTC and LG Electronics, which possibly could use Inside’s chips.
The announcement of the new customer using a major mobile platform is likely designed to draw attention away from the fact that Inside’s major customer for its NFC chips to date has been Research in Motion, whose importance in the smartphone market is fading fast in the minds of most observers.
Inside today also updated its NFC chip shipment figures, saying it had shipped 20 million of its MicroRead and SecuRead chips through the end of January 2012–half of them during the last three months. Most or perhaps nearly all of the chips have been shipped to RIM for at least seven NFC-enabled BlackBerry models. Inside announced in October that it had shipped 10 million NFC chips through mid-October 2011.
SecuRead comes stacked with an embedded secure chip supplied by Infineon Technologies. Infineon earlier said that it projected shipments of about 20 million embedded secure chips for the second half of 2011.
Analysts have estimated that handset makers shipped roughly 40 million NFC phones during 2011, nearly all of them using chips from either NXP or Inside.
But Inside will face competition from other, much larger, chip makers, which are entering the market this year with NFC chips, including STMicroelectronics, Samsung Semiconductor, Texas Instruments and Broadcom.
U.S.-based Broadcom will be among the biggest threats to both Inside and NXP since Broadcom’s other wireless chips, supporting Bluetooth and WiFi, are already used by many smartphone makers. Texas Instruments is not targeting its NFC chip for smartphones.
In another move to increase its profile, Inside in December announced that giant PC chip maker Intel is licensing its technology, which Intel could use to build NFC into its future chips for a range of devices. Under the licensing agreement, Intel also could use Inside’s standalone MicroRead and SecuRead chips for its implementations, including in mobile devices.
Intel is likely to include NFC in a reference design for mobile phones this year, said analysts, but Inside is not the only NFC chip maker Intel is working with.
Inside reportedly was seeking to raise €100 million (US$131 million) during the last IPO process, though the vendor never confirmed this amount.
To date, Inside has raised more than €133 million euros in venture capital, most during four funding rounds. The last funding round amounted to €50 million, helping Inside to acquire the smart card unit of U.S.-based Atmel. Past private equity investors Gimv and Sofinnova Partners led the round, which also included such investors as Qualcomm and Atmel, in addition to Nokia.