Deja Vu All Over Again

Where do I know that guy from? And why is he here?

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By Brian Fuller
I’m sure you’ve had that experience, at least once in your life, where you’re walking down the street, you pass someone and think, “Where do I know that guy from? Looks soooo familiar….”

Well, here in this spot, I’m that guy. You’re looking at that incredibly sincere mug shot nearby and thinking, “Where do I know that guy from? Didn’t he sell me a really crappy car in 2002?”

Well, not quite. I spent the better part of 20 years at EE Times, including 6 years as editor in chief. You may know me from that role or from standing on stage or hosting a panel at any number of electronics-industry events or driving around North America for a year interviewing engineers on the Drive for Innovation.

In any case, I’ve been in the industry as long as SemiMD’s editor, Ed Sperling, has been, and Ed graciously asked me to write for his site so here I am.

On a regular basis, I’ll bring you some high-level perspectives on the major design issues confronting engineers today, especially as they pertain to manufacturability and time-to-market concerns. The idea is to spark a conversation about whether those ideas are valid and pressing and, if so, how do we, as an industry, set about solving them in a timely way.

I thought about this earlier this month, wandering the halls of the Austin Convention Center, where the president of Samsung, Stephen Woo, talked about the mobile revolution. He said the semiconductor industry isn’t well prepared (that’s probably not a shock-and-awe statement to you). But the real eye-opener for me was this Woo line:

“We still have to use more than a dozen chips and many passive components to build a phone.”

(A thousand components actually).

That’s not just a statement, that’s a call to arms, coming from one of the world’s most influential manufacturers of smart phones (not to mention of components; oh, and by the way, they have pretty brilliant fab technology, as well).

The phone, today, is central to the future of design. Phones and video consumption are changing carrier business models and forcing server designers to throw out old system-design notions to accommodate the power and utility of smart phones. And that’s not even taking into consideration the phone design itself! Woo’s call to action means not only radical and relentless component integration but it suggests an overhaul of board design and materials selection that will strain existing manufacturability methodologies.

That’s just one topic in a sea of electronics challenges. I hope we get more and more familiar with each other in the months ahead as we discuss these issues.

—Brian Fuller is editor in chief at Cadence.