Consumer Electronics and EDA

Consumer electronics is becoming the largest single driver of the semiconductor industry. Consumer Electronics are semiconductor devices that are incorporated into products, which are purchased by individual consumers, such as:

  •         Desktop & laptop computers, Home networking, Printers, Audio-Visual Entertainment, Cell phones, MP3 player, Cameras, Automobiles.
  •         NOT Communications/Networking infrastructure, industry military/aerospace or servers/mainframes/supercomputers. 

    Factory Sales of Consumer Electronics has increased from $95.9 billion in 2000 to $140 billion in 2006. Demographics for consumer electronics markets are also changing. The market for electronic products, traditionally a Japanese, North American and Western European domain, now encompasses the whole of the Asian rim, China, Eastern Europe and India - a middle class market growth from 500 million to three billion people.


    Figure 1


    Figure 1: Sales of Consumer Electronic Products  (Source CEA) 

    APPLE iPod

    A shining example of Consumer Electronic Product is the Apple iPod. It is a classic example of doing the job right. It entered MP3 market late but still it turned out to be one of the hottest consumer products ever because of its style, engineering and cool-looking features.


    Apple's hardware engineering chief Jon Rubinstein assembled a team of engineers to design it. They developed the product in less than a year, and it was unveiled on 23 October 2001. CEO Steve Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1000 songs in your pocket." 

    Uncharacteristically, Apple did not develop the iPod's software in-house. Apple developed a layered design chain tuned for an early-stage market to create the iPod. Even more unusual for Apple, it relied on a platform and reference design created by a third party, PortalPlayer. Reference design was based on 2 ARM cores with rudimentary software running on a commercial microkernel embedded operating system. Apple contracted another company, Pixo, to create and refine the user interface, under the direct supervision of Steve Jobs.


    The device uses a dedicated MP3 decoder and controller chip from PortalPlayer, a Wolfson Microelectronics Ltd. stereo digital-to-analog converter, a flash memory chip from Sharp Electronics Corp., a Texas Instruments 1394 firewire interface controller, and a power management and battery charging IC from Linear Technologies Inc.

    What Apple conspicuously did not do is use an ASIC or other custom chip to integrate all the functions it needed onto one piece of silicon, which would have presumably saved space and battery life.


    Digital Consumer Product Design


    Attributes of Consumer Electronic Products are:

    Cost sensitive, Short Product development cycles, Fast time to market, Portable handheld products require less power and relaxed reliability requirements except for automotive.

    As an iPod example shows: Market Need + Focus + Simplicity + fast TTM + low cost + quality = Market


    Design not technology will play an increasing role in bringing differentiated products to market. This changes the design flow for Consumer Electronics, which is very different from industrial flow as shown in figure below.

     Figure 2 

    Figure 2: Consumer and Industrial Design flow


    The digital consumer products can be broken down into pre-defined intellectual property (IP) blocks of functionality (an MP3 player, MPEG decoder, MPU core, DSP core, memory, GPS, cell phone block, camera, etc).


    Figure 3


    Figure 3: Consumer Electronic Product Design


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