Waters: It is true that National Semiconductor's expertise lies in analog/power supply ICs that use relatively small amounts of power. Our entrance to the solar power system market might appear peculiar.

We decided to enter the market two or three years ago. At that time, we were discussing topics that were likely to grow to serious global issues in the future. The energy issue came up in discussion, and we reached a conclusion that we must commercialize replacement energies ahead of anyone. The development of a technology to lower power generation costs of solar power systems was what our engineers thought of and began to address then.

Other than the energy issue, themes such as healthcare and security also came up in discussion. We call these themes "Giga Trends." If we develop technologies to solve these issues, I'm sure we will have great opportunities in the market.

Q: What kind of companies are you targeting the SolarMagic modules at?

Waters: Our major sales targets will be solar cell module manufacturers. We've already started a negotiation with a Japanese manufacturer.

It's my belief that SolarMagic is a technology suited with the Japanese market. That's because houses are lined so close together and many trees are planted around houses in Japan. In California, there are not many buildings and trees that cast their shadows on solar cell modules. Accordingly, we think solar power systems will penetrate in the US market, if only the impact from mismatches among solar cells is minimized.

However, a dispute has arisen over shades on solar power systems even in California, where shading trees are less than in Japan. The dispute is about whether or not they must cut the trees that are making shades.

It is the better for the environment if solar power systems generate more power. They must cut down trees for that purpose, but cutting down trees is bad for the environment. Which is better for the environment? By the time the SolarMagic module is commercialized, however, I'm sure this kind of dispute will be a thing of the past.