The OrCAD Capture Marketplace makes it appear that EDA has finally caught up with the times. Announced May 11, it's a web-based capability within the OrCAD Capture environment that provides an on-line store with free and paid plug-in tools, or "apps." It also offers a wealth of component, model, and product information that users can access without leaving the OrCAD Capture environment.
The Marketplace is "unlike anything that's been done before," said Josh Moore, Cadence senior product manager for OrCAD. "You now have the ability to interact that has never existed before in an EDA tool. No other tool has this kind of purposeful directness to customers from a vendor." In addition to downloading or rating a plug-in tool for schematic capture or PCB layout, users can instantly search for components, obtain models, and access whitepapers, videos, and application notes.
A sneak peak at the OrCAD Capture Marketplace -- which will be open for business by the end of the second quarter -- reveals a web site that looks like it belongs in 2011, not 2001 or 1991. What's most significant, however, is that the site is contained within the Capture environment, providing a new way to access design data and product information while the design process is underway.
An online store provides access to plug-in tools or "apps." Initially, these will be created by Cadence and its channel partners; eventually, the store will provide apps created by end users. One example of an "app" available now is an intelligent PDF output capability. This free schematic capture application, created by Cadence R&D, outputs a "smart" PDF file that contains reference designators and properties, making it possible to search, navigate properties, and query objects.
What makes these applications possible is a new capability that allows Cadence, its partners, and its customers to extend the OrCAD Capture environment. Cadence tools have long used the Cadence SKILL language to customize other Cadence tools, but not OrCAD. Now a similar capability is available for OrCAD, although it happens to use Tcl instead of SKILL. This capability provides access to the OrCAD Capture database, objects, and command structure through Tcl commands and an API.
As a result, anyone can create an "app," and with future releases, third parties will be able to offer them through the online store. But not without some checking. "There will be a testing standard to make sure it does what it says, and is compatible with the current version of Capture," Josh said. Also, there's a built-in, five-star rating system for the various applications.
Access to Information
The Marketplace includes more than just the online store. It also provides the following from within Capture:
- A component search capability that includes OrCAD ActiveParts as well as on-line databases from partners
- PSpice and IBIS models, searchable by model type, manufacturer, and device
- "OrCAD centric" multimedia, including videos, application notes, and whitepapers about new product features
- Listings of PCB service bureaus
- An EDA360 information tab
- A "contact" tab that lists local channel partners
The instant availability of this information is convenient for both users and Cadence. In the past, Josh noted, "any time I've told a customer about a new feature I've had to put it on the web site, send an email blast, or wait for a visit or Tech on Tour or CDN Live!. Now I can reach the customer when they're in the tool. We have the ability to interact with the customer directly while they're using the tool."
The OrCAD Capture Marketplace, in my opinion, could help change how plug-in tools, libraries, and EDA product information are provided. Significantly, it is being launched with one of the most-used EDA tools in the world -- OrCAD Capture has tens of thousands of licensed users. As Josh noted, there's no reason this concept couldn't take off elsewhere in the EDA industry.
Memo to EDA industry: Welcome to the interactive, apps-driven world of 2011!