The just concluded Design Automation Conference was my 28th. I started attending in 1978, but missed the 1987 one, so I can only claim 20 consecutive DAC attendances. As Richard Goering pointed out in his blog DAC usually provides technical excitement and new markets begin out of the ferment on the exhibit floor and the technical sessions. This year, there were no new technical issues, no new promises of industry expansion into new fields.
And yet, the absence of a message was the message. For those who are still wondering where the industry is going, a clear indication came this week with the layoff of Richard Goering, the deacon of the EDA journalists core. The trend became visible last year, when Dataquest exited the EDA market and laid off Gary Smith and his "Angels". The reality is that it is hard to make a profit covering EDA. The market is small, dominated by four companies, and only a few others have enough cash to actually support full time analysis or coverage companies with their subscriptions and advertising.
This was reflected very accurately by DAC. The attendance was lower, but all those that attended had a serious purpose for doing so. The number of people walking through the aisles of the exhibit floor for the sole purpose of collecting give-aways was very small. As a member of the Exhibit Liaison Committee I talked to many vendors about their DAC experience. Almost without exception they all told me that the number of collected leads was down but the quality of the leads was very high.
I have to say that even if I had no business reason to visit the Novas booth I did and really enjoyed their planetarium show. If you missed it, you missed a real good way to spend a few minutes admiring the universe. Those Novas guys really scored a home run this year.
Denali is a company that continues to spend money to provide a good networking atmosphere on DAC Tuesday evening (and night). Sanjay Srivastava, its CEO and founder, still thinks this is well spent marketing money. Thanks you Sanjay, please do not change your mind! This year the party was loud, crowded, and the place to be. You had to see Simon Davidman, a true Brit, as Simon Cowell, Karen Bartleson, a true blonde, as Paula Abdul, and Dennis Brophy, a true well two out of three, as Randy Jackson as the judges of the EDA Idol contest. An enjoyable celebration of the industry. If that should ever stop you would know for sure that the only thing that counts in EDA is money.
Mentor, Magma, and Synopsys continued to provide an evening opportunity for press and analysts to meet informally with their respective executive staff and discuss the state of the company and the industry. To my knowledge Cadence did not do so, or if they did they did not value my input or the communication channel I represent. This year, just as last year, I had no one-on-one meeting with any executive from Cadence: may be it is just as well since we would have ended up talking about how to privatize the standard making process.
And yet, no EDA company can really be successful without DAC. The conference provides the technical leadership through the papers, panels, workshops, and tutorials that make up its program, offers a view of the business dynamics on the exhibit floor, and provides a convenient shopping place and educational experience for EDA users. I agree that there is also a place for captive events for the big four. Those may augment, but not replace DAC. And talking about replacement, nothing will replace Richard Goering: the industry owes him a lot more than a fond farewell.