Every company claims its products -- whether chips, IP, development tools, or test benches -- will save its customers time-to-market. Let's look at the design process and discuss those elements that actually affect the timely delivery of product.
Whether the end product is a small chip or an SoC, certain elements need to be purchased or licensed from other sources. In my experience, the time it takes to identify the necessary building blocks and negotiate the license takes many weeks.
Now multiply that by the number of technology suppliers. Add the time your own design engineers will spend integrating these disparate pieces of technology, plus additional man-hours for the time it will take to test this subsystem, and you will find you've spent between 12 and 18 months.
Now you need to factor in the amount of additional time it will take for your design team to add its own differentiating factors to the product. How does this approach decrease your time-to-market?
A commonly understood axiom is that consumers will not embrace new technology until it is easy to use. In most cases, the technology has to be less problematic in accomplishing something than the way consumers have traditionally carried out a specific task.
Cell phones enjoy wide popularity, for example, because they make it more convenient for the user to do an everyday task -- talk on the phone. Why should we expect our customers to behave differently?
In most cases, companies building SoCs license IP from multiple vendors, the RTOS from another, protocol stacks from another, and compilers and debuggers from still others. We believe this approach adversely affects our customers' ability to get products to market.
The industry needs to develop a more holistic view of the customer's development process. For instance, an application-independent platform, with application-specific extensions, allows the customer to license all or most of the pieces from one vendor.
Licensing all the building blocks from fewer IP suppliers will dramatically increase the probability they will all work together, thus reducing cost in the time traditionally spent negotiating licenses and integrating and testing the IP.
Reducing time-to-market means making it easier for customers to do the things they normally do with fewer engineers and at a lower cost. When test results are guaranteed, providing an integrated system solution that reduces time, cost, and risk accomplishes this important task and smoothes the way for increased customer satisfaction. And that means good business for both company and customer.
Mike Gulett is president and chief executive of ARC International, Elstree, England.