January 14, 2008
What if a Marketer From Outside EDA Were to Run an EDA Firm?
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by EDACafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

3D design visualization. We have one system. We focus very much on the usability aspects, making it easy to design. A highly graphical interface. You are ultimately building a 3D product. You should be able to visualize what it will look like. This development environment with a desktop NanoBoard and then easily re-port that reuse bits of design in either in that environment or in your custom PCB or the next time you are going to do a design reuse parts of your design and re-port that. Highly, highly configurable. Very much around design reuse, design portability, and design visualization. Removal of all barriers within the system. Design synchronization throughout. If you make a change in one domain, it is recognized throughout the whole system. It is a case of seeing is believing. It supports the latest FPGA devices. It is FPGA vendor independent so that you are able to do your design once, plug your daughterboard and down load that design. Then if you want to see how that is going to perform on another FPGA, you plug in that daughterboard. It autoconfigures to that. You get the ability to see in real time and to interact with your design live how that is going to work. For someone looking from an economic buying perspective, you are not really bound to any single vendor, you do not get caught where you have had to pre-select your device, have to pre-select how your
design is going to be executed before you have actually started the process of doing your design. We allow for that to be completely fluid right until the end including post the design.

What are some of the features of the new version?

The main thing we delivered was real time 3D design visualization. That is very compelling. I encourage you to have a look at our 3D video just to get a sense of what that represents and how the board is able to be explored. We delivered the SETA hardware complier. That was one of our big areas, being able to execute your software design into the FPGA without needing to know anything on the embedded side. A very simplified introduction into signal harnessing objects. I’m just going through the main features such as differential pair support. There were over 300 features that were delivered into the product. They are mostly significant features as opposed to just enhancements and
minor features.

What is the pricing and packaging of Altium Designer? Is it a monolithic package or a base with optional add-ons?

Basically, it is a very flexible system in terms of how it deploys. You have the option for the unified capabilities which together with the NanoBoard ends up being approximately $15,000. But you can deploy the foundation throughout engineering for around $5,000. All of our technology comes in the box, all the IP is pre-synthesized. You do not have to look to do that as part of your design flow. You can have confidence that this is all been kind of pre-optimized and shipped in the product. Your job is plug & play.

Is the licensing perpetual or time based?

We give all those options to the customer. Our view, part of our philosophy of removing barriers, is having it how customers want to license. We offer perpetual and time based licensing. We offer software assurance or maintenance if that’s the way a customers feels more inclined to not worry about whether they have the latest features.

You said that no one else has as integrated or as comprehensive solution as Altium. Who do you see as the principal competition?

It is an interesting thing. We don’t have just an integrated solution, it is truly unified, so a single system. From that perspective there are no competitors. In terms of who we are displacing, I think it is the major EDA vendors. This is beyond the low end products. We are now competing against the 10 times the price options available from the majors; you know Mentor and Cadence offerings. Winning if not from this is just a better away of doing what I did before or a more efficient way of doing what I did before but this is a much better way of approaching electronic design. This is a huge step forward. If you want to really differentiate, our technology is quite disruptive
to the industry. It allows a company that is trying to get that advantage.

On the embedded side again there are different players out there but their proposition is very different from what we have to offer. Again it is making this widely available to people who previously would not have been able to play in all these domains. If anything it is the solution that bypasses the need for a specialist FPGA engineers.

Do you see the overall market for Altium Designer growing? Is the growth principally by cannibalizing from competitors?

I think we have a lot of traction taking market share that exists out of the traditional domain. But where we see our future is what we are allowing is any designer today in a specialist domain to be able to become a system designer, a unified designer if you will. We draw the analogy going back to Adobe where you had your specialist typesetter, specialist illustrator, specialist PhotoShop artist and production specialist. Today you can’t hire anyone and you would not want to hire anyone that does not have all those skills. Use the Adobe Creative suite as an example because the tool and the interface between all those domains is so easy to work. Anyone of those functions within the design process including multimedia elements is what you want. Our solution is really saying for all those companies and for all those people who want to stay future proof and be able to influence the product design features of a product, you should be able to play in that domain, you should have that available to you, you should be able to influence that and you do not have to re-skill. You use the skills that you have today by having a system that supports that by making it highly intuitive and highly graphical. What that means if we extrapolate further in time, you might need to have a specialist engineering degree to be able to use a system to do these things. It is not
going to hurt you to be able to do more complex designs. It means that there is a market that we believe today together with the NanoBoard in a way we able to do these and by shipping the IP within our product we make it easy to put it into your custom PCB design. That actually opens a market that does not really exist today.

What end products or for what end markets are Altium end users developing? Is it consumer electronics, automotive, defense, ..?

The thing about our customer base, there are some 40,000 users of our Altium Designer. They vary from everything. We just announced that NASA has standardized on our solution. Not that long ago National Semiconductor. Everything from a whole deign center such as Houston that just standardized on Altium Designer, is creating electronics in the arm of the satellite probe, the electronics in the spacesuits to electronics in test and communication systems. We see it there. We see it at BMW. And we see it in Formula One racing cars. ResMed do all of their designs for the world leading slate. Cochlear global leading in hearing implants. We have a number of government agencies that use our software. It is also used by companies building remote garage door openers. It is varied in terms of large to small, from the single guy trying to bring his product to market, his niche. It is really varied. We can say it is communications, aerospace, and medical. In the consumer product area Bosch uses our technology. Siemens uses it. It tends to be a solution for someone looking for something different. It is more the friend if you like of the product manager who is trying to bring a new product to market. It is very strong in R&D, in those types of companies; Philips, Sony and Microsoft where it is new concepts being brought to market with a very easy out to manufacturing systems
that allows them to innovate and create and take that to manufacturing and do that seamlessly. It is really varied. It is not one strength. We are not pursuing one vertical. We do see a lot of alignments. When we go into those large organizations, we generally look for the team or division who are responsible for new product design. It is R&D or a certain team that is responsible for a fast changing product. Where they are not looking for the kind of basic solution where it is low cost and high volume production.

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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