The key issues surrounding programmable logic never seem to change. If your quantity is going to be less than X, design your circuit with programmable logic. If you need more than X, go with an ASIC. Over the last few years, X has been increasing. Not too long ago, X was measured in the thousands (as in 100,000). Today, there are examples where programmable logic devices are employed into the millions.
The reasons for X (and the moving X), have to do with the per-unit cost of the programmable logic ICs versus the NREs associated with ASICs. While the NREs are on the rise, the programmable chips are coming down, fairly significantly.
According to one industry insider, in the United States, about one-third of all ASICs ship less than 50,000 devices over their lifetime. Around 47% ship 100,000 over their lifetime. If you look at NREs today, certainly for the latest process technologies, you could be looking at $500,000 for an ASIC spin. And not too many design teams get it done right on the first spin.
When you add the amortized NRE to the cost of the ASIC, the programmable part becomes pretty attractive. The programmable-logic industry is nearing the point where it can offer solutions for under $20 that basically make ASICs not viable for anything other than quantities in the millions. Add that to the fact the programmable part can get you to market faster.
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