SAN FRANCISCOAustralian design tool provider Altium Ltd. has cut by about 75 percent the price of its Altium Designer, a circuit board design tool which is intended to bring together the traditionally separate worlds of hardware design and software development.
Altium (Sydney) has reduced the price of a perpetual license for Altium Designer to $3,995 from more than $12,000 and is also emphasizing a global subscription price of $195 per month, purchased in 12-month blocks. Altium has also cut the price of its desktop NanoBoard NB2 reconfigurable development platform to $1,995.
According to company executives, the price cut is intended to spur wider adoption of Altium Designer. They say the company decided it needed to reduce the price barrier in order for the technology to go mainstreamtrying to set a price that will be attractive to engineers who are mainly designing FPGAs but occasionally do board design work.
"One of the reasons we've been doing this is because we think that the traditional 'divide and conquer' approach to electronics designs is not going to be appropriate for the next generation of electronic products," said Rob Irwin, product marketing manager for Altium Designer.
According to Altium, its unified architecture enables the creation of hardware, software and programmable hardware in a single application, with a single view of the design across the entire design process. Altium Designer, introduced in 2005, supports the design of circuit boards but also includes integrated design tools for the emerging programmable hardware in electronics systems, according to the company.
Irwin emphasized that Altium Designer has not been changed. The new price is for the same tool, he said, not a basic or "lite" version.
Irwin and his colleagues say that with hardware design being moved increasingly to new geographic areas for cost reasons, design engineers must "be able to do more of the engineering puzzle" and become more like product designers focusing on product differentiation in order to stay competitive.
"If people want to stay relevant moving forward, they really need to recognize where their value lay," Irwin said. "For a lot of people today the value is not the low-level design."
According to Irwin, the current recession is camouflaging a trend that was already having a dramatic impact on the way electronics design is donethe shifting of contract and board design work to lower cost locations around the world. In this new paradigm, the value of engineers will increasingly lay in their knowledge, creativity and ability to differentiate products, he said.
Altium executives said another reason for reducing the price of Altium Designer is the idea that board design tools need to be priced closer to what people pay for FPGA design tools and software development tools.
"We took our step back and said the pricing model in the EDA industry was actually quite crazy," Irwin said. While people are accustomed to paying tens of thousands of dollars or more for complex, ASIC design tools, Irwin said, FPGA designers get tools from the FPGA vendors for little or no money, Irwin said. Software developers also get many tools for free and pay up to $2,000 to $3,000 for others, he said.
"Why do people feel they can charge $15-20,000 for board design tools?" Irwin asked.