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FPGA startup eyes handheld consumer market

Posted: 07 May 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FPGA? consumer electronics? SRAM? startup crunch?

SiliconBlue Technologies Corp., a startup backed by $40 million in venture capital funding, is aiming to buck the odds and thrive with low-cost FPGAs in a product market that has traditionally shunned them: battery-based handheld consumer products.

With products that promise low cost and low power consumption, at least one analystGartner Inc.'s Bryan Lewisthinks SiliconBlue is the most intriguing of the current crop of promising FPGA startups.

Low-end FPGAs have traditionally been unable to hit the cost and power budget requirements to play in the market for handheld consumer products. But SiliconBlue claimsamong other thingsto offer the first single-chip SRAM FPGA, the lowest-power FPGAs, small form factors and a product that costs $1 per part in high volumes.

SiliconBlue's FPGAs, like other low-cost PLDs from established vendors, are aiming to displace ASICs and application-specific standard products in handheld devices. According to Kapil Shankar, SiliconBlue's founder and CEO, SiliconBlue will grow the total available market for FPGAs by expanding applications in high-volume, battery-powered markets.

Shankar said SiliconBlue's devices are the closest thing there is to an ASIC in the FPGA world. Compared with traditional FPGAs, flash-based FPGAs and CPLDs, SiliconBlue's ICE FPGAs most closely approximate the combination of cost, power and single-chip advantages offered by ASICs, he claimed.

"Architecturally we are an FPGA, but we should be called an ASIC," Shankar said. He added, "I understand that FPGAs have been claiming that they are like ASICs for a long time."

According to Shankar, SiliconBlue has more than 40 design wins so far. He said he expects consumer products incorporating SiliconBlue devices to start hitting store shelves by the end of the year. SiliconBlue so far has three devices in production, he said, and earlier this year began shipping early production quantities. By the end of the year the company expects to have shipped more than 1 million devices, Shankar said.

"We are the first new FPGA company in more than 10 years with devices in production," Shankar said.

SiliconBlue has raised $40 million in two rounds of venture funding. According to Shanker, the company still has almost half of the money in the bank.

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