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Look at the prevalence of Wolfson’s audio chips today, in everything from audiophile DACs to smartphones like the Exynos-powered Galaxy S III and Galaxy S 4, and it’s hard not to be impressed. Factor in the company’s humble beginnings in 1984 as a university offshoot in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the growth story becomes even more dramatic. The company shipped its billionth chip in 2008, its 2 billionth in 2012 and now expects to sell a billion per year by 2015.
It’s ironic, then, that at the start of its journey into mobile devices Wolfson actually failed to grow quickly enough, resulting in the loss of its biggest and most high-profile customer. With Apple using its chips in a number of iPods, the Scottish company just couldn’t scale up to meet a sudden rush of demand. It missed some deadlines and Cuptertino left it out of the iPod Classic as it shifted its loyalty to Cirrus Logic, where it has stayed ever since. How did it recover? Where is it headed next? And how will it break Qualcomm’s continuing grip on smartphone audio in the US? Read on for answers from CEO Mike Hickey.