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Artisan mulls Synopsys libraries purchase

Posted: 26 Sep 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Synopsys? Avanti? Artisan Components? memory libraries? design flow?

Synopsys Inc. is shopping the libraries operation it acquired when it bought Avanti Corp. earlier this year, and Artisan Components Inc. is considering its purchase, both companies said.

The purchase would extend Artisan's lead in the libraries market, but has at least one user concerned about consolidation in the key libraries sector of the chip design flow process.

Handcuffed by a no-compete clause that is part of an earlier agreement with Artisan, Synopsys is obligated to sell its libraries unit by January 2003, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Synopsys signed a no-compete clause with Artisan when it sold its design libraries to Artisan in January 2001. But Synopsys regained libraries when it acquired Avanti and its Passport libraries earlier this year. Synopsys must rid itself of the Passport libraries to honor its agreement with Artisan.

Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Artisan, said his company is currently evaluating the possible acquisition of the Passport libraries from Synopsys. Per the companies' agreement, Artisan has "the last word" in bidding against others for rights to the libraries, Templeton said.

"We are talking to Synopsys," he said. "We are always interested in acquiring businesses that would make sense with what we already have."

As Passport includes both standard cell and memory libraries, the acquisition would increase Artisan's lead in the standard cell library business, and inch it closer to Virage Logic Corp. in the memory libraries market.

Artisan held a 15.9 percent share of the standard cell libraries market in 2000, according to Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst with Gartner Dataquest. Virtual Silicon Technology held the second-largest market share with 7.1 percent, and Avanti held the third-largest share with 5.9 percent.

Design worries

The acquisition presents a sticky issue for customers of foundry Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte. Ltd. Designers who use Chartered's services can use either the libraries of Artisan or of Synopsys. Passport is essentially a portable, general-purpose library that can be targeted for all processes of the major semiconductor foundries.

"People are worried about designs that are in development," said Mike Buehler-Garcia, vice president of marketing at Chartered, which is based in Singapore.

Mick O'Brien, vice president of businesses development at Synopsys, said that customers using the Passport library have expressed their concerns and want to make sure their processes will be supported by whichever company acquires the Passport libraries.

Synopsys is weighing these concerns when considering the sale of the libraries, O'Brien said. "We are making sure these customers are taken care of," he said. O'Brien would not say if any company other than Artisan has shown an interest in the Passport business.

Buehler-Garcia said that Chartered will protect customers by protecting its rights to the Passport libraries in the event of a sale, including the right to support the libraries with source code.

Industry watchers said the libraries business is not as lucrative as it once was, especially after Artisan introduced a free licensing model for libraries in the late 1990s, which solidified its position as the main library supplier to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd, the world's largest silicon foundry.

- Michael Santarini and David Lammers

EE Times

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