Junko Yoshida, EE Times(09/03/2007 9:00 AM EDT)New York
-- MIPS Technologies Inc.'s $147 million acquisition last week of Chipidea Microelectronica S.A., a privately held supplier of analog and mixed-signal intellectual property, advances both companies' ambitions for transforming system-on-chip design.
In today's typical SoC design cycle--which can take a year--the designers decide on a processor and operating system, think through the architecture and work on proprietary technology. But they often postpone decisions on analog components until the eleventh hour, creating an integration gap that leaves analog designers with a host of customization chores at the last minute. The resulting delays can stand in the way of finishing the SoC. "I've seen many customers--even large semiconductor companies-- unable to migrate to the next node, or having to skip an entire generation of technology," John Bourgoin, MIPS' president and CEO, told EE Times.
With the combined forces of MIPS and Chipidea (Lisbon, Portugal), "for the first time in the industry, customers can see a full pool of technologies--the beginning to the end--to design their SoC," said Chipidea CEO José Franca. "This could be a very powerful proposition."
MIPS' bailiwick, of course, is processor cores; Chipidea supplies analog and mixed-signal IP for the wireless, digital consumer and connectivity markets. Gartner Group analyst Christian Heidarson observed that while "MIPS has had a very successful year," it has "still looked like a bit player next to ARM." With the Chipidea acquisition, he said, MIPS strengthens its IP arsenal to mount a challenge to its dominant rival.
The deal is "huge news for the IP industry," Heidarson said. "The market for design IP is consolidating very rapidly. This market doesn't look good for startups. Unless you have strong patents and a genuinely unique and valuable technology, the design service business model is probably a better idea."
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