SAN FRANCISCO—Altera Corp., the No. 2 player in the programmable logic market, is expected to catch up with market leader Xilinx Inc. in quarterly sales early next year, according to an analyst.
With a portfolio of FPGAs for high-, mid- and low-end markets, Altera (San Jose, Calif.) has set its sights on the application-specific standard product (ASSP) and embedded markets in addition to ASIC market, according to Hans Mosesmann, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates Inc.
Altera posted sales for 2010 of about $1.95 billion. Xilinx had sales for calendar 2010 of nearly $2.3 billion.
Both Altera and Xilinx are trying to grow market share outside of the traditional programmable logic market at the expense of ASICs, ASSPs, DSPs and other devices.
According to Mosesmann, Altera is targeting a total market of nearly $50 billion, more than 10 times the size of the programmable logic market.
Mosesmann said Altera's 64 percent growth in 2010 was driven mainly by sales of 65-, 90- and 130-nm products. Altera's 40-nm products are still in the early phase of production, Mosesmann said.
Mosesmann added that 2010 was the first time that less than 20 percent of the company's sales came from products at the 150-nm node or above. Xilinx capture roughly 80 percent of the market for 150-nm and above products, he said.
Mosesmann said Altera's approach to 28-nm products strikes him as more powerful in terms of performance and cost.
Altera has said its high-end 28-nm Stratix V products would begin sampling this quarter, while its mid- and low-end Arria and Cyclone 28-nm devices are expected to begin sampling late this year and early next year, respectively. Altera executives say the company's 28-nm product portfolio is the broadest ever deployed by an FPGA vendor.
Xilinx will offer three classes of devices at 28-nm, up from two classes at previous nodes. The Xilinx 28-nm devices also feature a scalable architecture to enable customers to migrate 28-nm designs between the product families much more easily than has previously been possible.
After tapping out the first devices in December, Xilinx is sampling its first series 7 FPGAs during the first quarter. All of the companies 28-nm family members are scheduled to be taped out by the end of this year, with production beginning next year.
Mosesmann said a unified approach like Xilinx is taking, with a single architecture for all segments, has the ease-of-use advantage for potential rapid adoption. However, this approach could cost Xilinx in terms of gross margin at certain segments of the market, such as the low end, Mosesmann said.
"It’s too early to say how 28-nm will fair for both Altera and Xilinx," Mosesmann wrote in a report circulated Wednesday (March 9). "However, what we can say with confidence is that we believe both will continue to be successful in gaining share [versus] ASIC and ASSP solutions for many years to come."
Mosesmann maintains a "strong buy" rating on Altera's stock and an "outperform" rating on Xilinx's stock.