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New markets drive demand for programmable logic

Posted: 07 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pld? programmable logic? logic market? telematics? automotive industry?

Willem Roelandts

President and CEO, Xilinx

The programmable logic industry, like other segments of the semiconductor business, experienced a dramatic slowdown in sales in recent years. This occurred as the worldwide semiconductor industry itself experienced the worst recession in its history.

However, Xilinx is confident that the PLD industry will return to historical growth rates of 20 to 30 percent annually. While no one can predict when business conditions will return to normal, there have been positive signs over the last two quarters.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), this year is expected to be a turnaround year for the global logic market, which includes PLDs, as well as standard cell and a broad variety of application-specific products. The SIA forecasts that the overall logic market will grow by 16 percent this year and by 19 percent next year.

Asia is now a major market for semiconductors, primarily because of the rapid shift of contract manufacturing operations to mainland China and Taiwan. According to the SIA, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 29 percent of worldwide semiconductor consumption in 2001. Last year, that number was expected to rise to 37 percent, the largest one-year shift in chip buying patterns in history. At Xilinx, sales in the Asia-Pacific region now account for nearly 15 percent of sales, double what they were just a few years ago.

The explosion in consumer electronics, and the trend toward the convergence of digital audio, video, and data, is a primary driver for programmable logic in Asia. PLDs can cost less than $3 and yet provide the high-performance technology necessary for products such as plasma displays, DVD players, STBs, and digital video systems. And very low-power PLDs, such as the latest CPLDs, are helping manufacturers bring new battery-operated products such as mobile phones and PDAs, to market quickly.

Another emerging area for programmable logic is the automotive market. For instance, Xilinx has recently introduced a line of chips with extended temperature ranges that meet the rugged requirements of automotive equipment manufacturers. In the automotive industry, "telematics," which is the merger of mobile communications and information processing in vehicles, is just beginning. But we are already seeing exciting new applications. One Xilinx customer, for example, is now using low-cost FPGAs to build an integrated automotive entertainment system that features a CD tuner, an MP3 player, a 3D display, an amplifier, and a hands-free phone. Another customer is using PLDs to build a GPS automotive navigation system.

Overall, we are seeing greater instability in the semiconductor industry over the next few years. While Xilinx is set to continue growing, fragmentation in the supply chain with overall industry growth may trigger more unpredictable demand for semiconductors in the future. Xilinx may help protect manufacturers from this, as programmable logic solutions minimize risks for them by shortening development cycles and time-to-market. Customers can design faster using Xilinx PLDs as compared to using traditional methods.

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