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Ecosystem: ARM versus Intel

Ecosystem: ARM versus Intel
by Daniel Nenni on 09-05-2013 at 2:45 pm

 Ecosystem is everything when it comes to modern semiconductor design, especially if it is mobile. The fabless semiconductor industry has been all about ecosystem since the beginning and that is why we hold supercomputers in our hands today, believe it. After the invention of the transistor in 1947, and the invention of the integrated circuit in 1959, the fabless semiconductor ecosystem started to evolve into what it is today, a force of nature.

The semiconductor business transition started with the emergence of the ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). Electronic systems companies refused to be limited by the general purpose semiconductors of that era and started doing design work in-house. Back in the day, companies such as VLSI Technology and LSI Logic made billions of dollars making ASICs. In fact, this is how Apple got started as a fabless semiconductor company, they did ASICs with Samsung for the first generations of iProducts.

Next came programmable devices (FPGAs) from the likes of Xilinx and Altera. An FPGA is literally a box of Legos in which you can integrate IP blocks with custom design work using a much smaller amount of time and money. As you can imagine, the Xilinx ecosystem of tools, IP, and design partners is key to their market domination. Xilinx was also one of the first fabless semiconductor companies which brings us to the next and probably the most disruptive phase of semiconductor history; the fabless semiconductor ecosystem.

TSMC started it with what is now called the Open Innovation Platform, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in silicon proven IP, reference design flows, and a network of services partners around the world. If you want to know why TSMC commands such a large market share today it is all about the ecosystem, absolutely. This brings us to the point of this blog, take a close look at the details of the upcoming Intel Developer Forum and the ARM Technical Conference:

IDFis the leading forum for anyone using Intel® Architecture or Intel® technologies to change the world. And this year, it’s more technical than ever. This is where developers, engineers, technology managers, and business leaders from across the industry can meet, share ideas, and learn about Intel’s latest developments.

ARM TechCon™ is one of the fastest growing events in the industry. In 2012, over 4000 hardware and software engineers attended the three-day conference. The event, supported by over 85 Connected Community Partners, provides 140 hours of presentations and tutorials aimed at enabling you to optimize your ARM IP-based design. The show floor features product demonstrations and hands-on workshops fostering the perfect networking environment to Connect, Collaborate and Create future ARM Powered® devices.

I will be attending both events again this year and will do a closer comparison afterwards but based on last year and the current promotional materials, Intel still does not seem to get the whole ecosystem thing. IDF is all about Intel and ARM TechCon is all about the ecosystem, which is why ARM commands such a large market share and will continue to do so in the coming years. Just my opinion of course.

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