As we pointed out in a recent blog post, Finisar’s potential for diversifying its VCSEL business into the smart phone business should not be characterized as “tremendous.” While the impact will certainly be noticeable, there should be ample competition from suppliers, such as Lumentum Holdings, Broadcom, II-VI, and perhaps one or more other players to cut down on its revenue potential. Assuming the relatively high level of competition, we estimate that additional sales per quarter for Finisar would be optimistically no more than $60 million, and we project only a few more points on total gross margin because of the large quantity of other products sold by the firm. One can easily bet that a company like Apple will want to maintain a good number of vendors in order to avoid any disruptions in the supply chain, and to keep pricing of these components as low as possible. We also believe that the advantages resulting from this new capability will not by itself tend to excite people enough to lead to an unexpected jump in sales of these new high-end versions of phones. In addition, while the impact of a larger number of VCSEL arrays in autonomous automobiles may be realized in 2020, other considerations will almost inevitably get in the way.
With VCSEL arrays for LiDAR (3D imaging), a pulse of light is sent, and then the time it takes to come back is determined to calculate distance. The iPhone and other such devices will be convenient to use as a measuring tool for all sorts of things. Still, the ability to calculate dimensions just by sending pictures over the Internet in order to buy shoes or get customized suits, or inserting a couch into the photo of a living room to see if it fits the style or layout, would almost assuredly not be the kind of functionality that will result in long lines at the Apple Store – and neither would facial recognition in order to avoid the use of passwords.
When it comes to self-driving cars, we are just not optimistic about regulatory communities throughout the world just rubber stamping such innovations without years of investigation and testing. Insurance companies and other parties will potentially hold up these developments as well. These kinds of changes to the bulk of automobiles tend to be more incremental in nature. Moreover, it is quite conceivable that we are in the middle of a car bubble, at least in the US, which is about to burst, based on large amounts of credit that have been handed out for these vehicles.
Getting back to Finisar, for whatever reason, the Street tends to treat the company more unfairly that its competitors. We first pointed this out when it came to the raw deal it received when it was justifiably negative about the prospects for silicon photonics, especially before the meaning of the term became a moving target. It is quite possible that the investment analysts misinterpret straight-shooting for disingenuousness, which is hard to fathom.
In the most recent quarter, Lumentum was not punished for less than stellar results as well as near-term guidance because of this 3D-sensing opportunity. It is viewed as a leader in the space despite having relatively limited experience on the consumer electronics side, and it appears to have been struggling with VCSELs for high-speed communications. The safer bet is probably with the player that knows these lasers backwards and forwards, and has successfully produced them with big yields for many years.
Please consider our reports, Clash of Metro 100G Optical Vendors with Shifting Network Paradigm and Clash of Optical Component Vendors & Technologies in Data Center Networks.
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[written by Mark Lutkowitz]