John Bourgoin, President and CEO of MIPS Technologies.EE Times (07/21/2008 11:16 AM EDT)
No semiconductor company today can design everything it needs on time and within budget for complex system-on-chip (SoC) designs. By providing a standard architecture, processor IP companies enable customers to focus on differentiating their end product. With the shared R&D costs inherent in a strong, licensable intellectual-property model, companies can achieve a 10x cost savings compared with internal development. This ultimately accelerates time-to-market, since it can take years to develop a robust processor architectureand the success of a product often depends on being first to market.
For most designs at 90 nanometers, 65 nm and below, software functionality represents more than 50 percent of the design cost for SoC suppliers and OEM system designers.
As end products get smaller, designers are now increasingly integrating analog and mixed-signal functionality onto SoCs. While many semiconductor companies traditionally relied on internal analog engineering teams, these teams face new challenges and higher development costs as analog implementations become more difficult at 65 nm and below. Many companies must limit their technology options, because they can't convert their analog cores into their choice technology fast enoughresulting in suboptimal options for large, expensive chips, and increased costs.
Few, if any, SoC companies currently differentiate through analog components. More often, they differentiate through software, integration and fast time-to-market. For these reasons, and since analog connectivity and formats are defined by standards, analog has become a natural progression for IP and is now being increasingly outsourced, in the form of RF front ends, HDMI and USB connectivity, audio and interfaces. In fact, analog/mixed-signal IP is the fastest-growing segment of the semiconductor IP market today, and this momentum will continue as fabless companies and IDMs increasingly embrace the value of third-party analog IP.
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