As the programmable logic manufacturers stew in their $3.6 billion niche, a few brave souls are trying to solve the two key problems which have always plagued programmable logic products: they cost too much; they use too much power.
SiliconBlue, a two and a half year-old Silicon Valley company, is producing SRAM-based FPGAs which draw 20 microWatts and cost between $1 and $3, said Shankar.
Actel, the smallest of the big four programmable companies, producing flash-based Igloo FPGAs which draw only 2 microWatts and are the lowest powered FPGAs in the industry.
They are having a big success. “Our flash-based products grew 38 per cent last year”, says Actel’s Rich Kapusta.
XMOS Semiconductor, a two year-old start-up, is selling C-programmable multi-core chips costing from $1 to $10 which can implement substantial functions.
Yet Xilnx and Altera, the leaders of the programmable logic industry, persist with trying to make their products more and more like ASICs, with more and more defined, targeted, functionality.
To which end the two leaders have to write more and more software creating more and more functions to satisfy the demands of their customers which present them with longer and longer shopping lists.
Which camp is in tune with the future of the market – the industry’s leaders or the little guys?