Tired of the constant war of spin between Democrats and Republicans? The biggest FPGA companies sometimes make the D.C. crowd seem collegial.
There is, by the way, some reasonable basis for the incongruity of the two firms' 28-nm market share estimates. According to Jon Olson, Xilinx' chief financial officer, Xilinx believes it has been winning at least 70 percent of available sockets for 28-nm programmable platforms. But, according to Olson, Xilinx believes it has a much broader portfolio of products at 28-nm than its smaller competitor, including the Xilinx' Zynq FPGAs, which integrate an ARM Cortex-A9, and the Virtex-7 H580T 3-D heterogeneous FPGA.
Altera is "defining a universe that is much smaller than our universe," Olson said in an interview. "We have two vectors to our portfolio that they don't even play in."
For its part, Altera believes it is taking more than two-thirds of the market at 28-nm. But Daane acknowledges that the figure he is using is not a straight number of sockets, but the dollar value of the sockets—based on the number of parts customers say they will buy—a number that is more vunerable to revision. "If you look at just the number of sockets, you can win a lot of sockets but none of which really matter in terms of value," Daane said.
In other words, both companies are estimating their market share at
28-nm in a subjective way that is highly dependent on what they consider
their total available markets, which apparently are not quite the same.
For the record, Xilinx reported about $10 million in 28-nm FPGA revenue for its most recently concluded quarter, while Altera estimated about $8.2 million for the second quarter and more than $16 million cumulatively since the year began. Both companies expected 28-nm to increase to more than $20 million in the current quarter. (Daane said Altera's second quarter revenue would have been higher if not for a tight supply of 28-nm manufacturing capacity).
Delving into more depth on a direct competitor than you will typically hear from a CEO on a financial earnings call, Daane told analysts that Xilinx gets the majority of its 28-nm revenue from prototyping programs that deliver early revenue that does not become a reoccurring stream. By contrast, Altera's 28-nm revenue is from production design chips, nearly all for high-end applications, he said.
Olson strongly denied Daane's claims about the makeup of Xilinx' 28-nm revenue. "It is categorically not true," he said.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), unlike the presidential candidates, Xilinx and Altera won't be participating in any internationally televised debates later this year where their differences can be crystallized for the FPGA buying public. Customers will continue voting with their purchase orders. Polling data, for the 28-nm node and elsewhere, may not be reliable.