My, we certainly do live in interesting times, don't we? Just a few weeks ago, Altera launched their new 40 nm Stratix IV FPGAs. As you will doubtless recall, these are monsters, with up to 680K logic elements (LEs), up to 22.4 megabits of internal RAM, up to 1,360 18-18 multipliers, and up to 48 high-speed (8.5 Gbps) serial transceivers.
Now, these Altera parts are jolly exciting beasts, but you wouldn't want to use one in a handheld, battery-powered unit, because having only approximately 2 milliseconds of "up-time" would be somewhat wearing on the nerves.
And so we come to the folks at a brand-spanking new company called SiliconBlue. For the past couple of years, these little scamps have been working furiously in their top-secret underground bunker (just kidding) on a mega-cool, ultra-low-power FPGA fabric that is targeted toward handheld applications (check out the associated product release and design articles, #208401479 and #208401432, respectively).
These new FPGAs are really rather cool (the "Blue" part of SiliconBlue's moniker is intended to reflect their low-power emphasis). First of all, they are non-volatile because they use a Hybrid Flash-SRAM technology; second, they are implemented at 65 nm in a low-power (LP) process; third, any blocks like RAM are based on the foundry's ultra-low-power IP; and forth ... did I mention that they are really cool?
Actually, the specifications for these devices in terms of high logic element count, high pin count, small package, small power consumption, and low cost are all very impressive. SiliconBlue has attracted an incredibly skilled team of PLD experts, whose experience comes from industry-leaders such as Xilinx, Altera, AMD, LSI Logic, and Intel.
As Kapil Shankar, the CEO of SiliconBlue says: "We are introducing the first new FPGA technology in ten years, allowing us to build from the ground up single-chip, reprogrammable, ultra-low power FPGAs. Our two-process generation lead, gives our customers an unprecedented two to five times price advantage over competing non-volatile PLDs. We have delivered all the capabilities and advantages of wall-plugged consumer FPGAs to battery powered handhelds today."
I tell you, it must be really exciting to be part of a small start-up company that's almost certain to "go gangbusters" and make tons of money (personally, I've only worked for the other kind, the ones who never made any money at all :-) This is one of those cases where you say to yourself: "These folks are in the right place at the right time with a product that lots of people are crying out for!" And it doesn't get much better than that ... does it?
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.