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Lattice-Silicon Image union opens door for FPGA, ASSP fusion

Posted: 05 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Lattice Semiconductor? FPGA? ASSP? Silicon Image? Intel?

The president and CEO of Lattice, Darin Billerbeck, has described the acquisition of Silicon Image as an ideal match between an FPGA company to an ASSP firm, which may have pushed Intel to set its eyes on another FPGA company. "That's why Intel wants Altera. It's obvious," according to Billerbeck.

How obvious depends on where you sit in the electronics market.

As far as the potential Intel-Altera deal is concerned, the intrigue continues.

Reuters reported earlier this week that Intel had "signed a standstill agreement earlier this year with Altera that expires on June 1, giving the world's largest chipmaker the option to launch a hostile bid after that."

Billerbeck may spin the Lattice-Silicon Image as a model for Intel's potential takeover of Altera. But these are two totally different deals, in size, focus and intention, explained Michele Reitz, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Darin Billerbeck

Darin Billerbeck

Intel, whose size and breadth dwarfs Altera, could easily bury the FPGA firm's identity inside Intel's organisation, she stated. In contrast, Lattice and Silicon Image are of equal size and share a similar focus on the consumer market. Describing the deal as a merger between two companies on equal footing, the analyst said Lattice could make the merger workout, assuming that the companies integrate without losing Silicon Image's talents.

Lifecycle pitch

There are many positives in Lattice's acquisition of Silicon Image. Strategic reasons for the merger, pitched by Lattice, include a larger economy of scale, a focus on consumer electronics, an arsenal of IPs from Silicon Image and a diversified customer base.

But the Lattice CEO's favourite pitch is the "lifecycle" story.

He describes the merger as "a first of its kind in the semiconductor industry" in which a single company brings together the complementary attributes of FPGAs and ASSPs. This, in his mind, gives Lattice an opportunity to work with customers "across the entire product lifecycle from standards development, product specification to early innovator and late majority all the way through the product maturity."

Higher lifetime revenues

Higher lifetime revenues (Source: Lattice Semiconductor)

As good as it sounds, this lifecycle scenario could be a little too self-serving. Are Lattice's customers actually asking for this?

Richard Wawrzyniak, senior market analyst at Semico Research Co., thinks a good case can be made for Lattice's consumers.

He said, "If Lattice puts the Silicon Image IP (HDMI for example) into their FPGAs, then the customers could get to market faster. They can do so while waiting for the ASSP to become available, or having their SoC design to get done, assuming they had licensed the IP from Lattice."

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