In most industries the majority of Marketing efforts are directed to acquire new customers and therefore a company will rely on different forms of advertising in order to reach potential customers. This was true in the EDA industry for much of its relatively short existence. Therefore the usual communication carriers, both in print and electronics, benefited from the advertising dollars being spent by both large and small EDA tools providers.
But things have changed in the last two or three years as vendors have adjusted to the peculiar reality of the industry. If you take the list of the top two hundred electronics companies in the world you have the EDA RAM (Relevant Available Market). Companies not on the list are not, with very few exceptions, going to provide a significant revenue stream worth the focused attention of the big four EDA vendors, who collectively control about 80% of the total industry's revenue. The impact of advertising on the purchasing decisions of the top 200 is practically none. The top electronics companies have research organizations whose charter is to keep abreast of the state of the art in EDA. They avail themselves of conferences, shows, connections with academic institutions, and professional networking to make sure they can match their projected needs for EDA tools with the latest developments in the field.
What is happening now is that Cadence, Magma, Mentor, and Synopsys are spending more resources catering to their customers than they are advertising for new customers. Keeping a top corporate customers is as important, if not more important, than getting a new one. And getting a new one means wrestling it from a competitor. This task requires the best business and technical minds the company possesses, takes a lot of time, and the final decision depends often on the quality of the personal trust between the decision makers involved and the vendor representative, since, in most cases, the capabilities of the competing tools are quite similar, some times equivalent.
Although Synopsys SNUG is probably the best-known user group, thanks in part to the past confrontational efforts of John Cooley, CDNLive! going on this week, Users 2 Users (U2U), and MUSIC, respectively by Cadence, Mentor and Magma, are now large events with impressive budgets. All four events have turned into technical conferences focused on the specific technologies of the particular vendor and their attendance numbers surpass some of the traditional technical conferences sponsored by engineering organizations.
The characteristic I find more relevant that all four share is the prohibition to outsiders to attend the technical program session, with the exception of the keynote address and the occasional panel. Each organization is a club built on the vendor's technology and around the applications of the technology by the customers to their design and development projects.
A very small group of technologists in each company controls which tool will be used and from what vendors, in spite of the fact that some sources in the EDA industry continue to say that most designers have a say on the tool they use in their daily jobs. The vendors' captive events work to keep the designers from exerting undue pressure on the decision makers by providing them with an environment where they can meet their peers, feel important by delivering papers that might not meet the requirements of a generic technical conference, and networking with their peers who also are "smart enough" to use the vendor's products and services.
To engineers and designers wishing for an occasion to see how the rest of the world lives, conferences like DAC, DATE, DesignCon, and the Embedded Systems Conference, being held next week in Boston, provide opportunities that must continue to be nurtured and expanded.