SAN FRANCISCO—Programmable logic startup SiliconBlue Technologies Ltd. Monday (July 11) announced it is sampling its next-generation 40-nm FPGAs for smartphones and media tablets.
SiliconBlue (Santa Clara, Calif.) said its iCE40 family of mobile FPGAs, codenamed "Los Angeles," includes a low-power series (LP) targeting smartphones and a high-speed series (HX) targeting tablets. The devices, built on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s 40-nm standard CMOS process, provide twice the logic capacity of SiliconBlue's previous generation 65-nm devices, the company said.
Kapil Shankar, CEO of SiliconBlue, said the company's devices are typically implemented in smartphones and tablets as companion chips to the applications processors provided by the likes of Qualcomm Inc., Nvidia Corp, Texas Instruments Inc. and others to provide additional functionality. With so many smartphones and tablets using the Android operating system and relying on silicon from the small group of companies marketing applications processors for the devices, adding a companion chip is essential for any vendor that wants to differentiate its offerings, he said.
"The software is becoming identical for everyone," Shankar said. "To differentiate, you have to add hardware features to the devices. We are the instrument to add differentiation."
FPGAs have traditionally been a hard sell for handheld consumer applications because of their size, cost and power consumption. But SiliconBlue claims to have overcome this perception with its single-chip custom mobile devices, which offer ultra low power consumption, small die size and low cost (iCE40 devices start at $1.99 per unit in high volumes).
SiliconBlue claims to have shipped 7 million devices and says it is on track to ship 10 million this year. The company also claims more than 250 active end customers, including Tier One customers like Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
According to Shankar, SiliconBlue's custom mobile device FPGAs are found in 30 to 40 products already available on the market, including smartphones, cameras, personal media devices, e-books and even a watch made by Citizen. The company has to date focused on end customers in Asia, but is currently building out its sales force to target more customers in the U.S. and Europe, according to Shankar.
Last month, SiliconBlue closed $18 million in a fourth round of venture capital funding, bringing the company's total to nearly $74 million since it was founded in 2006 by Shankar, a programmable logic veteran and former high-ranking executive at market leader Xilinx Inc.