Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cadence CTO Departs

Congratulations to John Blyler on his scoop JB’s Circuit � Cadence CTO Departs? Yes - It’s True. (I saw John's tweet about this early this morning.) The comments indicate that Jim Hogan, a big name from Cadence's past, is back and playing some role at Cadence. I'm curious to get the rest of the story.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Getting Kids Excited about Chip Design

I was at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation yesterday to see their US-exclusive Leonardo exhibit. It really drives home what a genius Leonardo da Vinci was. He seemed to know everything knowable as of 1500, and the exhibits make it clear that he was a god of mechanical engineering (among many things).

If he were around today, with what's available with electrical and electronic engineering, imagine what he would have created! Who is the da Vinci of our day?

Besides this featured exhibit, the kids I brought and I explored the other Current Exhibits. I was excited to find displays on semiconductor design and manufacturing in the Silicon Workshop.

The design section is sponsored by Cadence and the EDA Consortium, and has hands-on activities showing what I knew to be logic design and physical design. I was excited to explain to the children how a few simple logic gates could be interconnected to control what actions would start the model car, turn on its lights, etc. And I think they enjoyed it, too.

Ask me again in ten years whether this influenced the kids at all to pursue science or engineering. I think it is a good attempt. Props to Cadence and EDAC for creating this to show what we do and inspire the next generation.

(images linked from The Tech web site)

Friday, January 16, 2009

AMD Cuts a Harbinger?

The story

AMD to slash 1,100 jobs, cut executive salaries (Reuters)

has variously been reported as "just a layoff", or, in this headline, layoffs + executive salary cuts. But if you read the article, the salary cuts apply to everyone who survives the layoff. Exempt employees, which includes engineers and other professionals, will get a 10% pay cut.

Ouch! People would prefer a cut to being laid off, but 10% could be quite a challenge for those who've been good consumers and not such good savers. I'm concerned that these measures will become more common as the economy continues to struggle.

As an aside, the article curiously mentions voluntary pay reduction measures for employees outside North America. What's a "voluntary pay reduction"? Does it mean "sacrifice for the greater good", or "volunteer or else something worse might befall you"?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Top 20 predictions for semis in 2009

Maybe rather than yet another blog post of 2008 review and 2009 predictions, I'll just flag provocative ones like's Top 20 predictions for semis in 2009 by Mark LaPedus.

Some of my favorite points:

  • EDA's four large vendors will more than likely survive the year intact. ... Despite Cadence's play for Mentor last year, consolidation among the big four is unlikely because of too much product line overlap.
  • The idea that TSMC might buy Cadence (or another large EDA vendor) has been floating around for years. But now that Cadence is on the ropes, is it more realistic? Offering a suite of EDA tools would make TSMC even more attractive to customers. But could TSMC charge as much for the tools as a standalone vendor? Not likely. ... But what if a company from an entirely different space made a play for Cadence just to get its foot in the door in EDA? What if a software company like Autodesk or Oracle decided to make a move? ... It makes for intriguing speculation, and it's not impossible. But it's a long shot at best. After all, who would want to get into the EDA business?
  • [Under "Foundry Fools"] In 2009, I also see Samsung emerging as a foundry powerhouse, eventually pitting TSMC vs. Samsung as the leader in the arena.
  • In ASICs, IBM Micro will scale back its efforts to few accounts. The same with TI. The big ASIC houses--NEC, Toshiba, and others--will spill more red ink. And the fabless guys--eASIC, eSilicon, Open-Silicon and others--will need to consolidate.
  • [Under 450-mm conspiracy] Got some bad news for you Intel: AMD's foundry spin-off, The Foundry Company, is backed by Abu Dhabi. Cash-rich Abu Dhabi can already afford to build 20 450-mm fabs--and fund the equipment vendors as well. So, the joke is on Intel and the other backers of the 450-mm fab--TSMC and Samsung.
  • Except for ARM, semi IP vendors will continue to lose money. Look for a wave of mergers in IP. How about a merger between MIPS and Virage?
  • In the top-10 chip rankings in 2009, 5 out of the top 10 will end up being fabless. Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek, Nvidia and perhaps another will be in the top 10. Global Unichip is an up and comer. The old line IDMs are sinking.

That's a lot of quoting, but there's even more good stuff in the article. The author definitely "names names" of which companies may fail and which will prevail.