March 01, 2010
Altium Limited – Focus on the Americas
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Russ Henke - Contributing Editor

by Russ Henke - 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 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!

As mentioned before, both the
survey results and the
white paper have been initially revealed for public scrutiny by Altium's Gerry, Bob and Jeff et al, during the last week of February 2010 via an ongoing Altium press & presentation campaign. This campaign will continue in the weeks and months ahead,

Here is the relevant Media Release:

More than 500 North American companies switch to Altium

New customers reporting significant productivity improvements

Australia -
February 22, 2010 - Altium has announced a banner year in “new logo” acquisition. During the past 12 months, the company's North American operation alone has acquired more than 500 new U.S. customers. All are newcomers to Altium's electronics design solution Altium Designer.

Altium Designer's single data model and unified architecture provide a system development platform for FPGA, PCB and embedded software development, in a single application. In addition to the electronics design authoring tools in Altium Designer, this platform architecture also provides intrinsic electronics design data management and IP support courtesy of the unified architecture.

“Electronic product design is at an inflection point where tool-chain approaches are struggling to meet the needs of today's complex process and data management needs,“ said Gerry Gaffney, regional CEO of the Americas for Altium. “Altium's unified approach to electronics design clearly resonates with these new customers, who come from many market sectors.

“They tell us they can see new ways to grow their businesses in increasingly complex and competitive markets, increase their productivity and lower their costs - and do all this without compromising innovation.”

In December 2009, Altium surveyed these new customers to discover how their design processes had changed.

Productivity had improved markedly: 84 percent of Altium's new users had experienced improvements of more than 200 percent.

Replacing design tools and environments can seem daunting, yet 85 percent of Altium's new users found the migration to Altium Designer as expected, or easier than expected.

And the word is spreading: 89 percent of Altium's new users would recommend Altium to colleagues.

“Nuvation works with virtually all major PCB EDA tool flows,” said Michael Worry, CEO of Nuvation. “We ran a
bake-off in 2008 and were quite surprised when Altium Designer jumped out as the superior tool. We've since implemented Altium as our primary tool, including the library management system, and are quite impressed with the remarkable productivity improvement we are realizing with the added features and efficiencies.”

END Media Release

To learn more about this campaign, contact Jeff Harrison at McClenahan Bruer Communications, Portland, Oregon, 97201, email:
Email Contact, Telephone: (503) 546 1000.


Postscript #1:

Another product offering that sets Altium apart is its “smart development board” called
The Altium NanoBoard 3000.

Here are Altium's words to describe the product:

Remember back to the time when you first became impassioned by electronics. Perhaps it was the moment when you opened your first electronics kit, when you discovered electronics design as a hands-on experience, in real time.

The system in a box provided everything you needed delve into the new world of electronics in a low risk and cost-effective way. In today's world of sophisticated electronic technology, FPGA design is the new frontier, and there's now an equally low-risk, hands-on way to explore and harness this latest technology - it's Altium's new NanoBoard 3000 smart FPGA development board. But unlike that preconfigured electronics kit, the new NanoBoard is a fully flexible, concept to deployment, hardware-software development system.

The NanoBoard 3000, part of Altium's growing family of NanoBoards, is a programmable design environment that's supplied complete with hardware, software, ready-to-use royalty-free IP, and a dedicated Altium Designer Soft Design license. It provides everything you need to explore FPGAs 'out of the box', so you're not forced to search the web for drivers, peripherals or other software, and then have the hard work of integrating all these elements to make them work together.

Created from the ground up for designing, prototyping and deploying the next generation of sophisticated, connected electronic products, the new NanoBoard 3000 was developed from concept to manufacture by Altium's in-house engineering staff, using Altium Designer. The result is a complete system-level design environment that provides the ultimate low-risk gateway into the world of FPGA embedded design.

Below is a link to a video about the NB 3000, the major product launch for Altium from the latter half of 2009. It's a board coupled with an FPGA (Xilinx or Altera) and free drivers for under $400. It would take an engineer weeks to assemble the same product -- and for far more money.

Postscript #2:

Some additional Background on Altium Limited itself:

The writer has included Altium Limited in his quarterly
EDA Industry financial Commentaries since 2003. Like many EDA vendors, Altium's revenues have suffered during the recent worldwide recession. In the figures published for the first half-year ended December 31, 2009, Altium's total revenues were US$21.9 million, down 18% compared to the same period in 2008. The Americas was itself down a similar percentage. At the time these results were announced, CEO Nicolas M. Martin said, "As mentioned in our update last October (2009), we were expecting conditions to remain tough throughout the rest of FY10 and Q2 performance has been in line with this expectation.”

Altium Limited will celebrate its silver anniversary this year (2010) when it reaches the age of 25. The company was founded on 1985 by Nick Martin after his having spent several years as an electronics designer in Australia:

Coincidently, with the exception of the relative latecomer Virage Logic (founded 1996), all of the companies covered in this writer's EDA Weekly articles to date were started in the eighties (Mentor Graphics in 1981, now including Flomerics in 1988; EEsof in 1983; and now Altium in 1985 (launched initially as “Protel International Limited”)).

The separate founders of EEsof and Protel had something else in common - both saw the game-changing potential of the then-emerging IBM-compatible Personal Computer as an attractive platform for electronic design & analysis software tools.

Despite having no venture capital and forced to bootstrap everything, Martin and his early colleagues were able to begin delivering Protel's initial product within the same year as Protel's founding - a DOS-based printed circuit board (PCB) layout and design tool. By 1986 Protel began exporting its product outside Australia, and it added a schematic capture tool in 1987. A Protel sales & support office in the USA followed in 1988. The next breakthrough came in 1991, when Protel finally overcame the limitations imposed by the Microsoft Disc Operating System by launching
“Protel for Windows,” said to be the first-ever MS Windows-based PCB design system.

It wasn't long before the Protel developers realized that its customers would soon object to the pain of manually combining stand-alone electronic design tools, just as their counterparts in the Mechanical CAD & CAE world at that time longed for a unifying, underlying data base on which each design or analysis application could reside.

Accordingly, Protel began developing internally such a system to unify the process of electronic schematic capture, board design and layout, circuit path routing, and circuit analysis and testing.

Of course, such developments were going on in one form or another at other PCB software vendors around the world in the early 90's (e.g. the “Falcon Framework” at Mentor Graphics). However, it is fair to argue that Protel was among the first to anticipate the emergence of field programmable gate arrays (FPGA's) and accordingly provided accommodations in its integrated offerings for same.

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-- Russ Henke, Contributing Editor.


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