As long as the process technologists continue to make it practical to deploy an increasing number of gates, creative design engineers will find ambitious new ways to use those gates to build competitive advantage.
Platform-based design with heavy IP reuse will continue to proliferate as more functionality is included into tomorrow's chip, but differentiation through software alone falls short of power and performance requirements.
Leading edge semiconductor and consumer products companies will continue to differentiate their products beyond IP reuse with proprietary functionality implemented in hardware. In order to maintain their competitive edge, they increasingly turn to higher levels of abstraction and synthesis for creating these proprietary hardware blocks.
While it is certainly true that platform-based design and IP reuse reduces effort compared to creating new hardware in RTL, assembling existing IP blocks is not a complete strategy for creating new SoCs comprising tens of millions of gates. Ways to create custom hardware more efficiently than handwriting RTL are also needed.
The idea of leveraging IP reuse to build larger SoCs is that a system or semiconductor company will construct their unique product by assembling pre-existing IP blocks and adding custom software. Certainly, this approach is emerging as a central technique to help tackle increasing design challenges and reduce the design and verification effort compared to substantial new RTL development. However, new functionality must still be built in hardware to satisfy performance and power requirements, and a higher level of abstraction is needed to complete these designs and get to market before the competition.
The market strategy of many systems companies depends on differentiating their products by implementing advanced functionality to deliver a superior end-user experience.
Notable examples include: face recognition for improved auto-focus in digital cameras; proprietary image scaling algorithms for upscaling DVD players; and cell phone modems that can produce better voice quality and tolerate lower signal-noise ratios. Visit your local big-box electronics store and you will see a wide range of image quality on the wall of 40-inch LCD TVs.