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Compete in the CE market with PLDs

Posted: 16 Apr 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:programmable logic in CE? PLD-based design methodology? consumer electronics market?

Along with the intense competitive pressures they have always faced, consumer electronics manufacturers must now deal with the formidable new challenges posed by a rapidly changing and unpredictable technological environment. For example, industry standards for many emerging market technologies have yet to be finalized. This can force companies to support standards that end up rejected by the industry as a whole, an untenable gamble that could mean wasting years of development and millions of dollars on an essentially obsolete product.

To avoid such potential disasters, manufacturers must turn to new methodologies that promote flexibility, rapid innovation and low initial development costs. For system designers, this means using PLDs such as FPGAs, with ASICs and ASSPs to provide the agility and differentiation needed to be competitive in the consumer electronics market.

This approach can deliver first-to-market benefits in the initial release stage. A PLD/ASIC-ASSP methodology can assure rapid innovation to maintain industry leadership.


  • Use PLDs to be first to market and minimize risk. Designing with PLDs enables manufacturers to release products into the marketplace earlier than with ASSP and ASIC technology alone. By offloading the most tentative parts of a design to programmable logic, manufacturers can make changes until the product is released. Designers who rely on an ASSP/ASIC-only design methodology must wait for the availability of a new component, and then must spend even more time qualifying the component before it can be shipped in the production system. Using programmable logic eliminates this risk and enables the product to reach the marketplace faster.

  • Use programmable logic to design products with uncertain standards. PLDs are suitable for designing products with interface protocols that are not yet standardized, because they allow modification of the interface late in the design cycle. If manufacturers rely on standard products to implement an interface, they will need to delay the product's release if the interface protocol standard changes before the product goes to market. Or worse, if the product is already in the marketplace, the system will have to be redesigned to comply with the new standards, resulting in obsolete product inventory.

  • Introduce product releases every six months. The most successful CE manufacturers release new products at least every six months and more frequently if possible. Because typical ASIC development cycles can take up to 18 months, manufacturers should use a PLD to add new features and functionality while waiting for the next revision of the base platform.

  • Use PLDs to extend life of the base platform. As a product matures, manufacturers typically spend less effort on support. Using PLDs in mature systems enables manufacturers to maintain profitability while continuing to make modifications.

  • Create scalable products that can accommodate larger-density PLDs to allow for a broad product offering. Many consumer products have base, mid-range and high-end, full-featured models. The most profitable design approach involves the ability to add high-end features with minimal redesign. Manufacturers can use larger-density devices that contain exactly the same form factor and pin-out, thus enabling more complex features without having to redesign the board. This allows manufacturers to leverage the existing platform and provide faster time-to-market capabilities than systems that do not leverage PLDs.


  • Assume that PLDs are too expensive to use in volume production. PLDs have traditionally been perceived as too expensive for use in CE applications requiring high volume production at low unit costs. However, in the past five years, new PLDs have been designed specifically for low-cost, high-volume applications. Although some ASIC and ASSP unit costs may still be slightly below those of PLDs, the costs are comparable when manufacturers consider total development expenses, including respins.

  • Wait until ASSPs are available to adequately support your product. In the concept phase of a product life cycle, there are few ASSPs that will fully meet your needs. Waiting for the perfect ASSP release only means risking your chance to be the market leader. Using existing ASSP technology and flexible PLDs gives manufacturers a head start on the competition by including the features today that other vendors are waiting to include in their next-generation ASSP.

A PLD-based design methodology enables manufacturers to successfully manage a product throughout its entire life cycle within the volatile CE market, from market entry into the mature market phase. PLDs make it possible to speed new product introduction and enable the product differentiation necessary to stay competitive. As design and production costs decrease and competition intensifies, the transition to PLDs as part of a customized CE design methodology will continue to gain momentum.

- Bob Siller
Product Manager, Altera Corp.

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