While a variety of EDA customer segments are growing, consumer electronics continues to drive the lion's share EDA of industry revenues. Hence, many events at last week's annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas can be extrapolated as leading indicators for the EDA business. While I couldn't personally attend CES this year, like last year my two trusted agents (specifically, Unified Communications (UC) expert David Danto of Dimension Data, and Joseph Hupcey Jr., video & communications systems architect and father of yours truly) were on the ground to field check the myriad of reports streaming in from legacy and new media. Thus, allow me to highlight the following trends from CES 2013 that I suggest will have a big impact on EDA this year.
1 - TV's ongoing evolution: clearly the most visible product category at CES were the new crop of "UltraHD" a/k/a "4K" resolution TVs. That's 3840 X 2160 pixels, or twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p HDTV format, with four times as many pixels overall. Concurrently a lot of very pretty, very large screen OLEDs were given center stage in many booths, suggesting that after over 10 years of CES previews this vibrant, richly color saturated display technology is finally ready for prime time. My agents report that that 4K screens are noticeably better than today's HD - it's not quite the same dramatic leap from SD to HD - but the difference is visible enough to tempt people to upgrade if the price is right. And thus the key question(s) revolve around volume production availability and pricing, i.e. when will the cameras, DVRs, streaming support boxes and services, and the TV sets themselves be available at the price points consumers expect?
As it turns out many professional and even some prosumer cameras already support 4K today. Quite a few productions are shot in 4K and after the final edit are down sampled to standard HD (don't ask me why, but somehow 4K video down sampled to 1080p looks richer than natively shot HD.) There are also a handful of professional grade theater projectors that support 4K. However, the good news for EDA and our customers' perspective is that's pretty much where the equipment support ends. The entire video data flow after the editor is up for grabs - DVRs, routers, and any other apps you can think of for TV need to be re-created to support consumer UltraHD. Given the bandwidth required to shuffle 4K frames around, clearly hardware-assisted verification products will continue to enjoy robust demand. With the ongoing growth of apps on TV platform, I further assert hardware/software design and verification solutions will also see ongoing growth. Last but not least, low power design and verification requirements - whether from regulatory bodies or end-customers themselves -- will continue to be a factor in this new generation of equipment.
Bottom-line: I agree that UltraHD will inspire demand for new TVs and supporting equipment, which means many more SoCs and peripheral ICs will need to be designed and shipped.
2 - "Born Mobile": this tag line was the theme of Qualcomm's opening keynote presentation, and indeed could be applied to over half of CES where smart, mobile devices of all forms - and a plethora of supporting accessories - took up a large chunk of the exhibit hall acreage. I see EDA being well positioned to benefit in several major categories: low power (self-explanatory), advanced node tool chain support, and design and verification IP.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the demand for increasing performance and functionality is clearly unabated, and hence the investments being made in 14nm and lower is money well spent by our industry. Another trend expertly observed in this EETimes interview of Broadcom's co-founder and CTO Henry Samueli is that almost everything on the show floor had embeded WiFi connectivity. Beyond the opportunities for network infrastructure equipment growth, I believe this significant step toward the "Internet of Things" heralds opportunities in design and verification IP - not for just WiFi and other radio IP, but IP to enable the rapid smartening up of previously unconnected, dumb devices like refrigerators.
3 - Born Mobile, Automotive Style: CES 2013 devoted a massive area to in-car entertainment and supporting accessories. Such was its scale that my agents were barely able to scratch the surface of this pavilion, but they came away impressed at how this category has visibly grown year-over-year in size and scope. It used to be all about glitzy car stereos, speakers of all shapes and sizes, and amusing arrays of blinking lights to decorate the audio installation. Today, the offerings are all about outfitting the passenger cabin like a home entertainment center, where you can customize the standard platform with apps like any other self-respecting modern device. The obvious point: in addition to the growth in electronics being used under-the-hood, the demand for multiple mobile entertainment centers in the driveway is good news for semiconductor growth.
4 - Standards-Based IP Enabling Clever Innovation: Perhaps a better case in point for anticipating growth in standards-based IP and low power design & verification is the eminently practical StickNFind Bluetooth Stickers. Simply affix their special sticker to something you often lose (car keys, TV remote control, phone, luggage), and when it goes missing you can hunt it down using their iOS or Android smartphone app to follow a radar-like display to sweep for the lost item. Clearly products like this are enabled by the availability of high quality, standards-based design and verification IP; and in turn we can expect clever new applications like this to drive growth.
If you went to CES this year – or not -- please share your observations in the comments below, or offline.
Until next CES, may your throughput be high and your power consumption be low.
Joe Hupcey III
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/jhupcey @jhupcey
P.S. Speaking of trade shows, in the verification space the annual DVCon's clear focus on functional verification technology and methodology has made it a growing, high value technical and trade forum. Hence, my colleagues and fellow bloggers will be there in force February 25-28 at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, CA! In particular I welcome you to join me at the Wednesday lunch panel, "Expert Panel: Best Practices in Verification Planning" and the Thursday tutorial entitled "Fast Track Your UVM Debug Productivity with Simulation and Acceleration" (includes coffee & lunch) Register today!
Reference Links and/or Other Interesting CES 2013 reports
David Danto of Dimension Data's report on CES 2013: A View From The Road Volume 7, Number 1 -2013: International CES
SemiWiki: Battling SoCs: QCOM vs NVIDIA vs Samsung
EETimes DesignNews: CES Slideshow: The Next Big (or Little) Things