September Uptick

As always, the pace quickens as the autumnal equinox looms and a host of fall conferences elbow their way onto the calendar. Summer is almost history and it’s back to life in the fast lane.

There’s a range of news in this edition of EDA Weekly. QuickLogic is redefining its position in the market, MIPS is acquiring Chipidea Microelectronica, Synopsys has announced a significant partnership with SMIC, Altera’s been working overtime, Cadence says it’s well on its way to establishing a DFM methodology, AWR has a new EM analysis tool, and a plethora of companies are paying close attention to automobiles, televisions, and mobile devices in China. There are also good books to read and seminars to attend, but let’s start with some recent indicators that the world’s not quite as flat as Friedman claims. Click on Print Article to avoid the click-throughs.


Skip this section if you’re sure the world is flat …

Paraphrasing from recent press releases:

Belgium – IMEC announced that Qualcomm has joined IMEC's technology-aware design program (TAD). IMEC and Qualcomm say they’ll be collaborating on innovative circuit and system-design methodologies. IMEC set up the TAD program to develop a methodology built on top of commercial design tools and flows, relevant to 45 nanometers and below, that propagate variability and reliability data from the technology level to the device, circuit, and system-architecture level. IMEC VP Rudy Lauwereins is quoted: "We are very pleased that Qualcomm acknowledges the strength of our TAD program. This proves the value of our solution, which starts at an earlier stage in the design flow than is being offered today by design-for-manufacturing solutions." Qualcomm Sr. VP/GM Behrooz Abdi is also quoted: "We are pleased to be a part of IMEC's TAD program, collaborating on next-generation design flows, and ultimately optimizing results."

France – France says it boasts several zones dedicated to advancing nanotechnology excellence, including the SCS cluster in Sophia Antipolis, the Systematic cluster in the Paris region and the global micro-nanotechnology cluster, Minalogic, in Grenoble. Minalogic is investing 80 million Euros into eight new collaborative projects focused on micro and nanotechnologies for semiconductors and manufacturing, while recently announced partner Hewlett-Packard is providing access to 2-TeraFlop data processor “virtual nodes” for Minalogic cluster partners. France’s nanotech laboratory CEA-Leti and Japan’s Nikon announced a joint effort to examine double patterning and double exposure technology for 32-nanometer devices, while Japan’s Yamatake is also working with Leti to develop nanotechnologies. California-based Monolithic Power Systems has opened headquarters in Bernin-Crolles, Boc Edwards has moved its European semiconductor headquarters from London to Grenoble, and Clinatec, an experimental nanotechnology-based neurosurgery clinic, expects to open in the next several years, benefiting from work being carried out at Minatec, Europe’s largest research center in micro-nanotechnologies.

U.K. – Queen Elizabeth II previewed the latest research in wireless body sensors and personalized healthcare in July when she officially opened the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. The event was hosted by Prof. Chris Toumazou, Founding Director and Chief Scientist of the Institute, who had his heart rate monitored wirelessly via a "Sensium-enabled" digital plaster during the ceremony, and posted to a PDA – a technology being brought to market by Imperial College spin-out Toumaz Technology.


QuickLogic – nimble, mobile, and proud

It took 3 hours and 1 sumptuous meal to drive home 2 ideas at QuickLogic’s recent press and analysts luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto on August 28th.

Idea No. 1: QuickLogic wants to be more than a garden-variety, also-ran in a crowded field of FPGA providers. As CEO Tom Hart put it, in a clear reference to QuickLogic‘s industry position relative to Xilinx and Altera, “Who needs another Dr. Pepper when you’ve already got Coke and Pepsi?”

Idea No. 2: Thanks to Reed Publishing’s master lexicologist, Ron Wilson, QuickLogic has a new moniker – CSSP provider. That’s Customer Specific Standard Product provider, or in QuickLogicSpeak: “Your idea. Our platform. Customized for you.” By revisiting their purpose in life, QuickLogic has discovered they’re no longer an FPGA provider. They are, instead, a one-time programmable CSSP provider perfectly/uniquely positioned to meet the sharply escalating worldwide demand for programmable single-chip solutions for the wireless devices market.

So why did it take 3 hours to get these ideas across to the 30 folks who came to lunch at the Four Seasons in August? Well, the first hour was consumed by a detailed presentation about the wacky world of wireless, delivered up by Francis Sideco, Senior Analyst for Wireless Communications at iSuppli.

Sideco said, by his calculations, the wireless devices market clocked in a cool $600 billion in 2006, and is set to grow 7.7 percent annually going forward when you throw everything into the calculation – 3G, 4G, Wlan, wireless broadband, a range of different devices, standards, variable infrastructures, and the kitchen sink. And despite/because of these opportunities, Sideco said the situation in the wireless market today is tantamount to a war between a finite set of commercial players duking it out for domination.

He argued that in the past, the high-end and ultra-low-end markets in wireless straddled the medium-cost and feature-rich markets sandwiched in between. Now, however, those middle markets are moving out. They’re cannibalizing from above and below to create a voracious new mid-market niche, which combined with the geo-specifics of China and India [“There are already more wireless subscribers in China than we have people in the U.S.”], is transforming the wireless industry into a “capital intensive, high-stakes game” where successful players are only staying abreast of their competition through flexible, platform-based designs.

Based on that analysis, Sideco concluded that QuickLogic is perfectly positioned to meet the need, and yielded the floor to lunch and the folks from QuickLogic.

As we all wolfed down a truly gourmet meal, CEO Tom Hart took the podium and told us that QuickLogic is having a lot of success in the market with their new CSSP initiative. He thanked Ron Wilson for coining the term, and noted one need only go to the FCC website and surf the device tear-downs there to quickly ascertain the notable, but unnamable, customers in QuickLogic’s repertoire.

He elaborated on QuickLogic’s evolution from FPGA provider to CSSP provider: “We no longer have FAEs – field application engineers. Now we have CSAs – customer solutions architects.” (Who, he assured me after lunch, are not competing with QuickLogic customers, but partnering with same.) Hart also pointed out that QuickLogic’s CSSPs can brag on a better energy-per-bite-transferred metric than their competitors’ technologies, and a tidier form factor. All told, he was clearly pleased and said QuickLogic’s only limited by bandwidth when it comes to meeting the huge demand for CSSPs.

Never one to shy away from candor, Hart then made short work of several questions put to him after his prepared remarks were complete. Yes, QuickLogic will still offer FPGAs “to legacy customers who aren’t put off by the fact that they’re one-time-programmable.” No, the company is not being reorganized in the wake of the CSSP re-launch, except that “we’re no longer selling through reps [because] you’ve got to partner with your customers [to succeed].” And no, QuickLogic does not see a threat from either structured ASICs or ASSPs: “You’ve got to build a flexible platform [to succeed in the wireless market], and ASSPs are not flexible.” Structured ASICs aren’t a threat to CSSPs either, he said, because they aren‘t a threat to anyone. Period.

He wrapped up his presentation, and the event, by stating several self-evident truths: “It turns out customers like the value of a sustainable core technology,” and “The consumer electronics guys are like birds. All you hear from them is, ‘Cheap. Cheap. Cheap.’” Clearly, Hart believes QuickLogic’s CSSPs are positioned to step up to the challenge on both fronts.

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