Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
Lattice Dodges Gorillas
Lattice Semiconductor is motoring again pursuing a strategy which avoids confrontation with the two FPGA gorillas.
“We don’t compete with the big boys any more, we’re not in big, power-hungry FPGAs, we aim to be the undisputed leader in low-cost, low-power, small foot-print FPGAs where time to market is crucial,” says Lattice CEO Darin Billerbeck.
“Gordon (Gordon Hands – Lattice’s marketing director) and I sat down and said: ‘If we can develop an FPGA for under 50 cents we’ll sell a billion.” says Billerbeck.
Now Lattice sells the 1000 LUT iCE40 FPGA for under 50 cents. Power starts at 25 microWatts, the package measures 1.4 x 1.48 mm. Lattice hasn’t sold a billion of them yet but Billerbeck says: “My goal is to sell one every ten seconds.”
As well as the smallest FPGA in the industry – iCE40, which runs from 1k to 8k LUTs, Lattice has the FPGA with the lowest cost per I/O (1 cent per I/O) – the MachXO3, and the smallest footprint high-performance FPGA – the ECP5 which has 200 I/Os in a 10mm x 10mm package.
Billerbeck is a CEO who does his own market research. “On my commute to work by train in Oregon I’ve found that if you’re over 40 you have a tablet, if you’re under 30 you have a phone.”
The market research extends to the Billerbeck household. “No laptop has been opened in my house for a year,” says Billerbeck, “my kids do their homework and write essays on the phone.”
So Lattice’s low-cost low-power device portfolio mirrors the mobile-buying demographic which explains why Lattice shipped 30 devices a second throughout 2013 for predominantly mobile applications, why revenues grew 19% last year, why gross margin is over 50% and cash tops $200 million.