As you may recall, I was somewhat disgruntled when Altium and its founder/CEO/CTO – Nick Martin – came to a parting of the ways towards the end of last year (see also my blog Altium, what have you done?)
I guess that the thing that really got to me was that I'd met Nick at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) a few years ago and I really liked him. In addition to a wide-ranging conversation that bounced around over most of EDA as we know and love it, we also discovered that we had a common bond in our love of Doctor Who (see also my blog It's bigger on the inside!).
The end result was that I've spent the past couple of months chuntering away under my breath ("mutter, mutter; grumble, grumble"). However, things have changed, because I recently had a chat with Altium's new CEO, Kayvan Oboudiyat, and CTO, Aram Mirkazemi, and I have to say that (a) they are both jolly nice people and (b) I am impressed with their vision of the future of electronics design.
Altium's CEO Kayvan OboudiyatAltium's CTO Aram Mirkazemi
One of the things that really struck a chord with me was when Kayvan noted that Nick had been with the company since it was founded in 1985, and that it was unusual for the founder of a company to still be its CEO and CTO after almost 30 years. This reminded me of the book Bill and Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company
to see my review). I recall the author of that book – Michael Malone – noting that the entrepreneurial characteristics that were suited to founding a startup did not tend to work well as the company transitioned into "adulthood" (as it were).
Now, if you have not been watching what Altium have been doing recently, you really should take a look at their website (www.altium.com
). In addition to their tightly integrated PCB and FPGA development tools, they also have a tight integration to the SolidWorks 3D mechanical CAD package. Furthermore, in addition to designing the electronics hardware
, Altium's environment also supports the development of firmware
, and cloudware
Speaking of "cloudware," one of the things the folks at Altium drop into the conversation a lot is the term "ecosystem." You have to be careful here, because they bounce back and forth talking about two different things. First, we have Altium's current ecosystem, which comprises the platform, tools, content, users (80,000 and growing quickly), community, and Altium's partners.
Second, we have the concept of the "ecosystem of devices," in which electronic products are no longer created and deployed as standalone entities, but are instead part of a "greater whole" (think "Internet of Things (IoT)" for want of a better "handle"). The full realization of Altium's "ecosystem of devices" vision is likely to be two to five years out, but progress toward that vision will be made over time, and I think we can expect to see announcements from Altium that speak to that progress in the not-so-distant future. Altium's DXP platform is a big part of this; the first step was opening it up to the web, and the next step will be an SDK for third-party DXP application developers (both EDA and non-EDA) and content providers.
Of course companies like Mentor and Cadence and Synopsys have incredible Enterprise-level tools and technologies, but these come at a price that makes your eyes water. Also, they are at a level of complexity that boggles the brain. By comparison, Altium's tools are understandable and affordable enough for folks like me to use.
The bottom line is that I believe the folks who stride the corridors of power at Altium have a good grasp of what the future of electronics design looks like, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
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