It’s All About Money

The end of the recession is here or near, which means companies can actually start dealing with the technology challenges we’ve all been hearing about.

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In the end, it all comes down to money. In the beginning it’s all about money, too. But when it gets into the middle of the cycle, people seem to forget about that.

System-level design, Moore’s Law, abstract modeling, lithographic advances and everything in between have all been caught in the worst downturn since the great depression. The problem is that instead of just independent sectors being slammed, the entire world went down together. Jobs got cut, foundry orders dried up, consumer demand withered and commercial demand for computers and communications infrastructure—the old standby’s of semiconductor development—stalled.

Put in perspective, semiconductor design weathered the storm rather well. The EDA market was down for the first time in its history, and people will be speculating on why that happened for years to come. Design engineers were cut. Budgets were cut, and end customers weren’t buying as many tools as in the past.

Moreover, the whole picture didn’t make sense to people because from a portfolio management approach, you’re supposed to have a stable portfolio when you reach about 20 different investments. That could be different market sectors and different countries, or different tools that play across those various sectors and geographies.

While modeling makes sense at 32nm, most companies have been sitting back a couple nodes waiting for the market to begin showing life again. The recession that began in December 2007 has been long and deep, and most people have been struggling just to get through it.

As of the past quarter, it appears the downturn is either over or nearing the end. Foundries are investing in new process technology, orders for EDA tools are up, and Asia is rebounding faster than anyone predicted. In other markets, home sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and so are all the major stock indices. Some companies are even hiring again.

And finally, with money beginning to filter into the design world, we’ll be able to actually start exploring all the new techniques and challenges that everyone has been talking about since before the recession began—and actually solve some of the thorniest problems electronics design has ever witnessed.

–Ed Sperling