I recently chatted with Gabe Moretti, editor-in-chief of GABE on EDA, where he shared some of his thoughts on the business of EDA and EDA publishing.
Liz: You weren’t always in publishing. You have over 30 years in EDA tool development, along with EDA senior management roles. Then you went into electronics editorial. You’ve written for many of the surviving publications. If I remember correctly, you were at EDN, EE Times, EDA Café, DACazine. Why did you go into electronics editorial?
Gabe: After Mentor acquired VeriBest there was no immediate open position at Mentor that satisfied my career goals, so I left. I could then re-evaluate my role within the industry and try something new. EDN convinced me that I was the person they were searching for to cover EDA. It sounded like a good opportunity to try something new and something that would have very little negative impact on my career in the short term if I were not successful. That was eleven years ago, and I am still doing it, albeit in a very different way. At EDN I was a full time employee. All the other “jobs” were actually consulting assignments. DACezine was a very interesting experiment that did not last because the DAC executive committee that changes every year never found a fiscal model for the publication.
Liz: What led you to publish your own?
Gabe: As you know the publishing industry is going through a revolution. Before the introduction of “social media” a relatively small number of chosen professionals were the source of information and editorial. They were employees of corporations with a tradition in print media that were very able to generate a profit from the industry. The on-line publishing world has radically changed that, and publishing corporations are still struggling to understand the profit making mechanism, assuming there is one.
So I decided to try a new model and see how it compares with the rest. It is actually too soon to know, but I think it is worth the investment. I believe that one thing is already proven: on line publishing cannot sustain the organizational overhead that print publishing has.
Liz: Tell us a little bit about GABE on EDA.
Gabe: GABE on EDA is my umbrella business, and my main web page. At this point there are three separate ventures under it. One is EDAMarket, the model I referred to in my previous answer. EDAMarket is an experiment in financial terms, not in content form. It attempts to answer the question: is there an alternative to advertisement sales (sponsorships are just another form of advertisement) to support an information channel? I looked at selling individual subscriptions, but in an environment where distributing copies of copyrighted material is unfortunately becoming the norm, I did not find the model compelling. So EDAMarket is supported through an annual corporate subscription. The corporate subscribers get privileged coverage and an alternative source to their messaging.
The newsletter Assembling The Future is the second activity. As the name implies, the subjects covered are forward looking. Contributions are open to anyone. Present conditions are only taken as the starting point for a projection of what the industry needs and were it can be in the next five years.
The third activity is my consulting. At this point it is still in the startup phase, but I hope to grow it. It will be my channel to more directly impact the progress in our industry.
Liz: What is the focus of your consulting business?
Gabe: I am helping companies with strategic marketing plans and tactical product positioning.
Liz: What is unique about GABE on EDA, and who is your target audience?
Gabe: Even when I was in charge of engineering projects I always had an eye toward the business aspect of the project. After all, I chose engineering because it was a more secure avenue to a US citizenship than finance. Luckily I have found that I can be successful doing a number of things. GABE on EDA takes advantage of my business degree, my Computer Science degree, and my training in writing (thanks to attending Italian schools that emphasized composition and independent thinking).
I think that the uniqueness of GABE on EDA rests on its target audience. My readers are executives and senior management professionals, as well as designers that are interested in the business aspect of their industry. I am a firm believer that methods are more important than tools, and that tools are developed and sold in order to generate a profit.
Liz: You’ve been witness to a lot of change in the EDA publishing industry. What direction do you think EDA & IP media will take? In 5 years? 10 years?
Gabe: As I said before this is a difficult question to answer. I think that the final choice will rest on the quality of the content developed within a specific financial model. The audience, after all, is interested in information, not data. Too often we confuse the two and equate data to information. Although reliable and accurate data is necessary to generate information, the latter is the more valuable commodity in a world that is increasingly competitive and short of time.
Liz: I think we do equate data and information. How do you define each of them and can you explain the difference between the two?
Gabe: Data is a collection of raw items that require analysis in order to become information. As an example data is: there has not been any hurricane in Florida since 2004. Information is: due to new weather patterns in the upper atmosphere a system of high pressure has been reasonably stationary over Florida during hurricane season, building a barrier around the region to the air movements conductive to hurricanes.
Liz: In other words, information is more than just raw data, and it is valued much more by the public if it is given with some trusted analysis. How do you expect EDA publishing to evolve?
Gabe: I think the winning strategy will be based on the electronic delivery of information at a profit. There is so much excitement about free stuff: open source is a perfect example of the deterioration of the capitalistic system, and the publishing world has in many ways gone open source, meaning that there are many publications, now called blogs, to choose from and almost all of them free. Yet, authors, like engineers, need to make money to live and pursue happiness. I think the evolution of electronic publishing will depend in large part, not from the publishing industry but from a new model of the internet that recognizes intellectual property as separate from generic data.
Liz: Speaking of delivering information for profit, what about pay for play? What is pay for play? How close are we to total pay for play? Is it good or bad for the industry?
Gabe: I am a bit surprised that the term “pay for play” is part of the description of a way to use electronic publishing. Pay for play has always been around, even during the paper only era. Certainly I experienced it since I joined the publishing industry. To be sure some organizations, EDN for one, kept advertising separate from content generation organizationally, but you had to be a moron not to understand that subjects were covered only because they generated advertising revenue. If you need an example close to home, look at the amount of coverage the EDA industry receives today in for-profit publications that cover the electronic industry. Why has it gone down? The answer you get from every publisher is: EDA vendors do not advertise.
Liz: [raises eyebrows] That’s interesting.
Gabe: Again, there must be a profit or professionals will not engage. As long as it is understood that professional content is generated by people that are paid to communicate, the impact will be neutral. Time is not free, and bloggers that write because they have free time to do so, are amateurs by definition, no matter how wise they might be.
I know that for some writers a blog is a powerful marketing tool: I realize that my website, is an indirect marketing tool for my consulting as well. But that is not its primary intent. Any of my endeavors will not survive unless they can justify themselves financially.
Liz: Likewise, where is the EDA industry itself going? What are a couple of hot issues in our industry right now and what do you think will surface in the next couple of years?
Gabe: The major problem facing the EDA industry is the dwindling number of customers that can afford to use the latest process technology. Manufacturing at 20nm and below is so expensive that most OEMs will choose not to use these processes. Yet the EDA industry has been relying on its customers going from one process node to the next as clockwork to generate profits. License renewals are fine but more expensive licenses for new tools are what keeps the industry going. EDA vendors must find a new financial model before it is too late. By the way this new reality will also significantly impact startups.
A leading company like Synopsys, for example, will very soon have to address two very distinct markets: the leading edge OEMs producing high volume, high margin products, and the average OEMs targeting the price sensitive consumers market. There will be producers of Ferrari like products, and KIA like products: both have a market, but they are built very differently and with different tools. What is confusing now is that the tools look very similar, so people think they are and will be the same. The EDA vendor that successfully realizes the distinction and serves the two market accordingly will be successful. The PCB market is already using this model, you just have to look at Cadence that offers both Allegro and Orcad products to two very different segments of the PCB development market.
Liz: And here’s the big question…..EDA360 – what the heck is it and where is it going? What do all of those realizations mean?….especially now?
Gabe: I am a fan of EDA360, and probably its first independent supporter, I have to admit. This document is the first public admission that the EDA industry is at an inflection point and needs to understand some very important points. The first one is the role that software plays and will play in future electronic systems. I do not know the real reason John Bruggeman used in choosing the title of its document. But I will tell you that the first picture in my mind was the IBM 360. That mainframe revolutionized business computing both because of its hardware capabilities and its software tools. The message of EDA360 is that our industry must not only be aware of the heterogeneous systems electronics are part of, but that it must offer application oriented solutions that make it more efficient and profitable to develop and integrate the electronics subsystem in those applications.
Liz: I see the 360 reference as meaning a complete change in thinking. So yes, that would be revolutionary. And how do the three realizations realize these solutions?
Gabe: The “realizations” are a link to the past. No one can build a house without foundations. The future must be anchored to the present. So System Realization takes an idea to a design, SoC realization transforms the design into the representation of an electronic product, and Silicon Realization prepares the product for manufacture. Are these the same steps we will need a few years from now? In general yes, but the contents of the steps will be different.
Liz: Anything in the offing for Gabe or GABE on EDA?
Gabe: Not immediately. I think that EDAMarket, Assembling The Future, and my consulting activities cover the directions I would like to go. But I am very pragmatic, so I will change as the industry changes and hopefully I will play some role in the changes, both in the publishing world and, more importantly for me, in the EDA world.
Liz: Gabe, I have no doubt that you will continue to play a vital role in delivering “information” as the EDA industry evolves.
Gabe Moretti is a recognized expert in all aspects of the EDA industry, with over thirty years of experience developing EDA tools spanning the range from design capture to chip layout. Gabe has also worked on the development of numerous industry standards and has held senior management positions with EIS Modeling, HDL Systems, and Intergraph/Veribest. Since 2000 Gabe has been covering the EDA industry as a writer and editor first with EDN Magazine and now with GABE on EDA.