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Programmable ASIC market gains steam

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LSI Logic (distributed by Reptechnic ) has raised its marketing pitch on Rapid Chip, a sign that the market for programmable ASICs is finally beginning to catch on.

The company has been working with customers for nearly three years since it first announced the Rapid Chip concept. At the time, the company called the approach structured ASICs. Now it has introduced a new term, platform ASICs. (See Electronics News July 04 page 26.)

For the past year, this concept has really been emerging in customers consciousness, says Chris Hamlin, LSIs chief technology officer.

Hamlin noted that the real benefit of using platform ASICs is that they can drop the cost of developing chips as well as speed time to market. Exactly how much of a saving is difficult to define, however, because the real costs are diffuse. But reducing time to market and the time it takes to develop a chip can mean significant savings on the front end, while not getting chips to market on time can be devastating to a business. We take the risk out of engineering, he says. Risk is dominating decisions these days.

The leading edge is not always about performance, Hamlin adds.

Semico analyst Rich Wawrzyniak agrees. He said the real cost of developing a chip is more difficult to measure than just the non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs. [Average selling price] has driven a lot of the market, but when companies say a chip costs [US]$20 million they often dont focus on the whole cost, he says.

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