Lots Of Work To Be Done

New opportunities in integration of analog and digital and new types of chips will create lots of jobs, but the focus will be different than in the past.

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Many design engineers have had a long time to think about what’s changed in the design world. Some of them are still looking for jobs, frustrated by the remarkably slow pickup in the job market—particularly in the United States and Europe.

But as Magma CEO Rajeev Madhavan noted last year, coming out of the downturn things may not look the same as when we went into the downturn. It’s more than just the availability of jobs. It’s what the new jobs will be.

The convergence of all things digital and analog onto a single piece of silicon should give some hints about the shape of things to come and where the focus will be. Motion sensors, an explosion in MEMS, the combination of voice, video and data and more will change the notion of what constitutes an SoC. The previous distinction was Small A, Big D, or Big A, Small D. We are entering the phase of Big A, Big D, with the interconnections between the two becoming a critical area for development.

With enough real estate to pack hundreds of millions of transistors onto a single piece of silicon—along with vertical stacking of some die—there’s plenty of room for function and forms. What there isn’t, at least so far, is any structure for how to build that chip, how to integrate the various pieces and how to debug it.

That will provide plenty of work for years to come—not to mention lots of opportunity for new sales—for tools companies. It also will provide momentum for startups that can bridge some of these tools.

Most economists predict the financial world will return to health over the next six months, with some growth in 2010 and steady growth in 2011. It’s time for this industry to figure out what needs to get done and get everyone back to work.

Ed Sperling


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