Friday, March 23, 2007

Whither ASIC

I'm surprised by how bad of shape the traditional ASIC business is in. Are any companies making money? Only IBM Microelectronics?

Several of the Japanese semiconductor powerhouses are cutting way back (or closing) their US ASIC engineering. Today a friend told me that LSI Logic isn't doing ASICs any more! Is that right?

The vendors that are doing the best have attractive IP portfolios, like IBM or TI. Those that historically relied on manufacturing process (e.g., Japanese) and left IP entirely up to the customer aren't faring well.

I'm especially surprised that even fabless chip startups aren't using ASIC vendors! They invest in the COT model or the "virtual ASIC" model, contracting with a number of service providers. I would have thought that the integration value-add of ASIC vendors would be even more attractive in these days of worrying about signal integrity, variability and DFM. Don't chip designers want "one throat to choke" when things going wrong?

We may not have ASIC vendors to kick around for long.

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