What if a Marketer From Outside EDA Were to Run an EDA Firm?
People will talk about these concepts. It is not like the concept is a challenge. I have often talked to different companies who say “That sounds great but is it really true? Is it possible to be true?” We have been doing this. We have been in business over 21 years. It has been 8 years in development that we have been building the unified system. It is incredibly big and very comprehensive. We are now out winning not just where we originally played but we are now out winning the other vendors premium positioned products because of the depth of technology that exists in the product. But it is packaged and communicated in a way that makes it easy for people to get their hands around.
You mentioned that 97% of Altium’s business is outside of Australia. In the EDA world most companies have a significant percentage of their business outside their home country but perhaps a third or more lies within their home country. Does Altium’s situation present any significant or special challenges?
The rest of the world is on a different time zone. We tend to work more 24/7 to accommodate the fact that we are supporting our teams that are operating 12 hours out of the 24 hours that is available to you. The use of technology whether email or video conferencing. I’m in the US office this week. I was in the European office last week. Many of the senior management travel around. We do a lot of movement of our teams around to make sure that the culture is fostered in the way we want and that learning is able to be shared. The distance adds complexity. No question about that. But the beauty of it is that we do not get bound by any one kind of region dominating the thoughts and views of the teams that are developing, marketing or looking at where we are heading moving forward. We have this kind of lovely view of the world to see what is really happening there, what are the global trends, what has globalization done. You can say that is all off-shoring. But for anyone who is trying to create differentiation in their product by trying to maximize that in their hardware and to optimize their board design that is just not going to do it for them. They are just not going to be able to stay competitive because someone is going to be able to do that quicker, faster and cheaper and have that produced in next to no time in China or somewhere else in Asia. Really what needs to be done there is have a system and have a way making it easy to design in your differentiation which is your IP by using platform programmable hardware that allows full possibility in how to execute your design. As the trends continue they are more widely adopted and available, prices are coming down, performance is increasing, more data available to do more. So just like the microprocessor exponentially grew, the same thing is going to happen. It will be a system like ours that has been built from the ground up, architected so that becomes the core part of that, provides advantage to customers who would want to adopt that from the outset as opposed to just seeing FPGA as a separate component.
One hundred years ago I worked for a company called CADAM who bought PCAD. IBM bought CADAM. IBM sold off CADAM’s mainframe and workstation mechanical product lines to Dassault Systemes and renamed the remainder Altium. They then sold the EDA portion, evidently to someone in Australia. I noticed that last June Altium announced the retirement of the PCAD product line over some 18 months. How has that retirement gone? What was the response of the PCAD customer base?
In honesty the customer base were not happy to hear that the tool that they have expertise in and that they know how to deliver their design and answer to their management that they can do this and that in a given timeframe would no longer be developed. We have really focused very hard on making the migration as easy as possible. We have done that through a range of things; a seamless migration of file formats, extensive training available, special support for customers doing that as well as online training, dedicated support teams to be able to do that. And then a nice migration offer to make it easy for them to move from PCAD Intelligent Designer. The core of that is that we are just being honest. This is where we see the future and this is where we are developing our products. We believe that for you to remain competitive as an employee, to future proof your career, but also to future proof your organization, you need to move in this way. It is different in its approach. The biggest thing you are overcoming is that someone is an expert in a domain today and you are asking them to relearn. We have focused on making that really easy. So 18 months later we have seen a large number of our customers make the transition over and we will continue to help them do that. But we have started to move on the critical mass. We did not listen to our customers that we should continue to support it. We did not think that was the right thing for them or us. So we have moved them across.
How large an installed base did PCAD have?
We have just over 4,000 customers, probably 3 to 4 times that number of users.
Do you know how many users have migrated?
I would say that we are well over half who have made the transition. We have allowed those that were on maintenance to be able to continue their maintenance and apply that to the Altium Designer. PCAD had a pretty good maintenance take up. We gave that option for the customer to be able to do that whether they wanted a time license, a perpetual license, a traditional upgrade or a license plus maintenance. Customers were able to transfer immediately.
Is all of the development team located in Australia?
We have a very big development team in Sydney, a big team in the Netherlands, a team in the US and a team in Tasmania which is where Altium started. If you are not familiar, Tasmania is a little island that sits under the main island of Australia.
In terms of sales where does Altium do direct and where do you have resellers and distributors?
The major regions of America (North America and Canada), Germany, Switzerland, France, Scandinavia, Japan, China and Australia all have direct sales. In the US we have a number of offices. The one in San Diego is our head office. We also have offices in San Jose, Chicago and Boston. The rest of the world is covered by an extensive value added reseller channel that covers the rest of Europe, Asia Pacific and South America.
Were most of the PCAD resellers also Altium Designer resellers?
PCAD was primarily just a big North American client base with probably under 15% or so being European based. It was never widely proliferated from that point so that the majority of our PCAD resellers with the exception of Korea (PCAD was reasonably big in Korea) were also Altium Designer resellers. We have been very successful because of multi-language support, true type font support. We support Japanese, Chinese and Korean in our product. That is one of the key thing in helping the migration to Altium Designer as well.
Altium Designer is your main product. Version 6.8 was released in late November. Would you give us on overview and cover what’s new in the latest release?
Altium Designer is the world’s first unified electronic design system and by that I mean that it is a single platform that allows for everything from concept through to manufacturing, so design entry, PCB design, programmable hardware systems design as well as embedded software design. Version 6.8 is significant in terms of what that represents in completing that. It is the first C to hardware compiler which allows literally at a tick box the possibility for a system designer or embedded software designer to able to execute their design and see how that is going to perform on an FPGA in a seamless way, to allow them to do it without having to know anything really about hardware. That is the basis of the system. You can be a board designer and you do not have to know anything about FPGA to port and use the FPGA as a base to push as much of your previously hardwired design. You are able to do that in a software design way on the FPGA. You do not have to learn a different language or know anything about FPGAs to do that. A great unified system together with the NanoBoard allows someone to have a complete electronic design, a development environment that is highly reconfigurable, very focused.
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