NEWTON, Mass. -- Mentor Graphics Chairman Wally Rhines foresees a very different recovery for the EDA industry from the latest and longest economic downturn.
While Rhines' company (Wilsonville, Ore.) has seen better results than the rest of EDA industry, the chairman and CEO predicted a "design-intensive" recovery. That view is based on the overcapacity situation at the some 40 300-mm semiconductor fabs around the world. "The shear number of plants  that are at some stage of completion are sitting empty", Rhines said here at a Mentor-sponsored EDA Tech forum on Thursday (March 11).
"TSMC is wondering what to place through its 300-mm fab in the next six months. That's not a good sign," said Rhines.
Mentor grew 7 percent last year while the rest of the EDA market grew at only a 5-percent clip. "We had new products in the pipeline that designers needed in the downturn, while other players had an inventory of older products," claimed Rhines.
He acknowledged that EDA companies have yet to make their licensing business model more attractive to chip companies. During a panel discussion, Rhines echoed another panelist, William Reinisch, senior vice president of engineering at startup Magnolia Broadband: "In the last 18 months things have started to change by necessity, and we as an industry have become more flexible in our licensing terms," said Rhines.
"There is still work to be done in enabling a more flexible EDA design tool flow, especially for startups like us," said Reinisch whose Clinton, N.J., company is developing smart adaptive antenna arrays for wireless devices.
Fairchild Semiconductor's Bob Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of the Integrated Circuits Group, endorsed full-chip simulation tools to foster innovation. "In the analog world . . . we need more convincing tools that say can simulate our chips for power supplies " something that I find lacking today."
Jack Little, president of MathWorks Inc. (Natick, Mass.) said its products target behavioral simulation as a way to stimulate innovation. Matlab and Simulink are widely used as system-level behavioral design tools. Last year, MathWorks began offering electronics designers a co-simulation interface between its tools and Mentor's ModelSim HDL simulator.
Eliminating doubts as designers move up the the abstraction layer "will foster innovation for designers because they see what the big picture goal is", said Little.
"We expect designers to integrate lots more FPGAs into their designs going forward," Rhines added. "The flexibility FPGAs offer breeds innovation on the design side and in turn offers EDA tool vendors to reciprocate with more innovative tools."
Besides Mentor Graphics and MathWorks, four other companies sponsored the one-day EDA Tech Forum: Magma, Xilinx, Hewlett Packard and Chartered Semicondcutor Manufacturing.