AUSTIN, Texas-The semiconductor business may not be sexy in the eyes of most investors, but then again not everyone sees the upside the way Lip-Bu Tan does.
Tan, Cadence's CEO and a longtime and successful venture capitalist, said he's "doubled and tripled down" on investments in the silicon business.
Three unusual reasons, he said during his Visionary Talk at the 50th Design Automation Conference here.
Tan said it's rare to have two major system drivers affecting the design chain, but it can happen. However, today there are actually three.
First, there's the growth of mobile phones. The smartphone market is estimated at 1.5 billion units, while mobile phone sales are 5 billion, Tan said. That means there's an upside of 3x or 4x for smartphones, which are generally more costly and more profitable for both systems makers and semiconductor providers.
In addition, another aspect of the mobile world is growing rapidly. Sales of the iPad are growing three times as fast as those of Apple's iPhone, Tan said.
"There's a third cycle coming up. It's something I'm most excited about: It's wearable, drivable, flyable and scannable" technologies, he said.
He held out as examples the GoPro portable camera that Tan has invested in, as well as Google Glass.
Scannable technologies leveraging mobile platforms (think more than just bar code readers) are growing 4x each month in China, Tan said.
As we move deeper into the era of big data, that means big opportunity for electronics, he said. More than 500 million digital photos are uploaded every day, while 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube, Tan said. Mobile traffic is growing 1.5x per year, he added.
Opportunities and challenges
With these technology transformations come challenges too, he acknowledged.
Hardware-software co-design and co-verification and scalable IP are crucial to getting products to market more quickly. And FinFET / 3D-IC technologies-that will enable continued scaling and power management--are exciting but still relatively young.
"I've doubled and tripled down on semiconductor investment," Tan told the DAC audience. "I told my partners you guys can do Internet and the mobile social media. I'm going to focus on building up the semiconductor industry. If the industry grows, we're all going to benefit. It's something I'm very passionate about."
Tan added, "I talked to my friends who back a bunch of social media, hot IPOs in software-as-service and they say ‘Lip-Bu, continue what you need to do because we need to build on top of that. If you stop innovating, we are dead.'"