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After a hard year and
a half for the EDA industry and the economy in general, what's on tap for 2010
and beyond? The EDA Consortium's annual "CEO Forecast and
Industry Vision" panel Feb. 18 had what I would call a "cautiously upbeat"
mood, with CEOs making some interesting comments about ongoing challenges, new
opportunities, and major changes for the EDA industry and its customers.
Lip-Bu Tan, president
and CEO of Cadence, joined the annual discussion for the first time. Other
panelists included Aart de Geus, chairman and CEO of Synopsys; Wally Rhines,
chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics; and John Kibarian, president and CEO of
PDF Solutions. Following are some takeaways from the discussion.
1. Bad news, better news - revenue estimates for 2009-2010
Overall, the panel
was much more about "vision" than "forecast," with none of the panelists
offering a revenue forecast for 2010. But moderator Jay Vleeschhouwer, senior
software analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, started off with some hard data. By
"hard" I do not just mean numerical - Jay said EDA industry revenues declined
about 10 percent in 2009, to $4.15 billion. That marks two consecutive years of
declines. Jay expects 2010 EDA revenues to be in the plus 3% to 4% range over
2. EDA technology must enable customer profitability
Lip-Bu Tan talked
about visiting over 300 customers in the past year, and hearing that
profitability is becoming their most critical concern. Customers are
contemplating chip design projects that may cost $100 million, and looking at
how many units they'd have to ship to be profitable. They need to reduce design
costs and meet time-to-market windows. EDA vendors must become "business and
collaboration partners" to help customers be productive and profitable, Lip-Bu
Later, Aart de Geus
said there is a "massive push towards productivity and profitability" and noted
that "the other side of this coin is innovation".
The EDAC CEO panel
included Jay Vleeschhouwer (at podium), and Lip-Bu Tan, John Kibarian, Wally
Rhines, and Aart de Geus (left to right).
3. Watch the semi industry closely, and you can predict EDA revenues
In past years Wally
Rhines has come to EDAC forecast panels armed with charts and graphs linking
semiconductor R&D spending to EDA revenues, and has offered forecasts for
the following year. This year he couldn't talk about 2010 because Mentor hadn't reported
earnings yet. But he did note that his 2009 forecast (minus 6%) was fairly
close, and he repeated his argument that EDA revenues closely track
semiconductor R&D spending. Unfortunately, that spending decreased in the
4. "Excess" capacity is a hard call to make
As Wally noted,
excess capacity is bad news for semiconductor companies and their suppliers.
But John Kibarian argued that we are not, as some claim, going into an excess
capacity situation with respect to logic. There's been a lack of investment for
a long time, he said, and new products are driving user demand. "If we see
capacity utilization come down, I'm wrong and we've overshot," he said. My
take: we will only know "excess" capacity in hindsight.
5. Moving beyond Moore's
Law into uncharted waters
The term "inflection
point" may be overused, but Aart believes we're at one in the "shift from
scaled complexity to systemic complexity." Scaled complexity is basically what
we've heard about for years with Moore's
Law. Systemic complexity involves "multi-layered," interacting challenges, such
as hardware/software integration. He didn't elaborate further, but I would add
"more than Moore"
technologies like MEMS and 3D ICs to the list.
6. Don't expect a quick recovery
Jay asked panelists
about their views of the second half of 2010 (I'm not sure why they weren't
asked about the entire year). Second half visibility is "not clear," Lip-Bu
responded. "R&D budgets are still very tight. We are cautiously
optimistic." Earlier in the panel, Aart spoke of a "very gradual return" for
7. Is semiconductor industry consolidating or isn't it?
Jay asked how
consolidation in the semiconductor industry is impacting EDA, and got a
surprising response from Wally. The semiconductor industry is not only not
consolidating, he said, but has been in a state of "monotonic de-consolidation
almost from the beginning." The five largest semiconductor companies have less
market share today than the five largest companies had 35 years ago, he said.
What we are really
seeing, Aart said, is a "capex consolidation" around process development and new
8. End markets are the number one driver
At last, something
that the big three EDA vendors all agree on! Lip-Bu, Aart, and Wally all agreed
that end markets are the biggest demand drivers for EDA. Lip-Bu said he is
"very excited" about 4G, a "billion dollar opportunity that's very hard to do."
He also said end markets and increasing complexity are driving demands for low
power design, mixed-signal ICs, and functional verification.
Panel summary - my view
There was no time for
audience Q&A, and there wasn't much in the way of revenue forecasts or
controversial comments. But I think the panelists offered some balanced,
hype-free insights into where the EDA industry and the designers it serves are
headed. It was very good to have Lip-Bu join this annual event and hear his
I understand that a
video replay will be available on the EDA
Consortium web site.