Xilinx vs Altera Update 2017

Xilinx vs Altera Update 2017
by Daniel Nenni on 02-15-2017 at 7:00 am

I truly miss the Xilinx versus Altera war of words (competition at its finest) and competition is what makes the fabless semiconductor ecosystem truly great, absolutely. So with great disappointment I read the Intel Analyst Day transcript published by Bloomberg last week. It is attached at the bottom in case you are interested but to me it is a 41 page snoozefest.

Here is the detailed (sarcasm) update on the Programmable Solutions Group (Altera) from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich (BK). Please note that PSG was not even on the agenda with the rest of the Intel groups:

What I’m really proud of for this group is two things for 2016. One, 14 nanometer, first 14 nanometer FPGA shipped to customers, which is on Intel technology…

Let’s not forget that Intel and Altera signed a foundry agreement exactly four years ago for the 14nm product that they are just now shipping today. This agreement led to the image below showing that the Intel 14nm process is by far superior to the TSMC 16nm process. Xilinx has been in production at 16nm for more than a year now which brings me to my first question for BK:

Can you please update this slide now that both chips are in production?

and secondly, in 2016, they hit their growth targets growing faster than market, meaning we believe we gained share in 2016. First year out of an acquisition, we feel part of an acquisition we feel like those are great results and something to be proud of for Intel and the Altera team.


The FPGA market has an expected CAGR of 8.4% from 2016 to 2020 and according to the recent Xilinx investor call:

[LIST=1]

  • Sales from our 28-nanometer Zynq product family increased by nearly 20%.
  • 20-nanometer revenue again reached a record level, significantly exceeding our $50 million target.
  • 16-nanometer sales grew significantly in the December quarter to a new record, exceeding our forecast.
  • 16-nanometer shipping 12 unique products to over 300 active customers.

    What specific market share did you gain in 2016?

    And we’re already starting to look at 10-nanometer products for FPGAs as well. So, we believe we can continue to win share and grow faster than market in FPGAs.

    Xilinx is skipping TSMC 10nm in favor of an accelerated 7nm schedule which will go into production in 2018. As history has shown, the first FPGA to a process node wins majority market share. Xilinx beat Altera to 28nm by a quarter. Xilinx beat Altera to 20nm by about a year, and 16nm beat 14nm by more than a year.

    Xilinx Collaborates with TSMC on 7nm for Fourth Consecutive Generation of All Programmable Technology Leadership and Multi-node Scaling Advantage. Four generations of advanced process technology and 3D ICs, fourth generation of FinFETs

    SAN JOSE, Calif., May 28, 2015/PRNewswire/ –Xilinx, Inc. (NASDAQ: XLNX) announced that it has collaborated with TSMC on the 7nm process and 3D IC technology for its next generation of All Programmable FPGAs, MPSoCs, and 3D ICs. The technology represents the fourth consecutive generation where the two companies have worked together on advanced process and CoWoS 3D stacking technology, and will become TSMC’s fourth generation of FinFET technology. The collaboration will provide Xilinx a multi-node scaling advantage and build on its outstanding product, execution, and market success at 28nm, 20nm, and 16nm nodes.

    From what it looks like today, Xilinx 7nm will beat Altera 10nm again by more than a year. In fact, Xilinx may be at TSMC 5nm by the time Altera has ramped up 10nm.

    Bottom line: The problem with semiconductor marketing writing checks that engineering can’t cash is that at some point in time those checks will bounce. Intel’s former bravado and current lack of transparency in the FPGA market has fallen flat and that is nothing to be proud of.


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