Sometimes Tensilica and ARM dot go head-to-head. “There is overlap but I don’t think it’s that much.” said Wawrzyniak of Semico. “They should be more worried about ARC,” he said, referring to the processor core company that is now part of Synopsys. It sold 1 billion processor cores last year, he added.
“Tensilica and ARC are direct competitors,” said a Synopsys spokeswoman. “They’re both configurable--for example, you can add application-specific arithmetic functions that make them perfect for audio processing, which we have done for our audio IP sub-system,” she said.
Tensilica is no newcomer. It claims to have sold 2 billion cores to date to more than 200 licensees. It had estimated 2012 revenues of $44 million, thanks to growth of about 35 percent over the past two years, especially in licensing. That puts it about on par with Ceva, which has more royalty revenues than Tensilica, Rowan said.
The core vendor claims it is in seven of the top 12 smartphones. One of its big design wins is in a noise cancellation chip designed by Audience and used in the Apple iPhone 4S and some Samsung phones, said Will Strauss, principal of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.).
Tensilica also is used in LTE chips from Fujitsu, Intel as well as in Huawei’s new Ascend P2 smartphone, Strauss added. The deal also gives Cadence IP for network infrastructure, automotive and consumer electronics, creating “a new market thrust for Cadence, which is not known for aggressive IP licensing of MCU or DSP cores,” said Strauss.
ARM is interested in similar markets with its M0 cores and Neon DSP extensions. Neon doesn’t provide the MIPS per Watt of Tensilica’s cores, said Rowen.
Tan downplayed the ARM-Tensilica competition. More than one of the startups he funds through his Walden International venture capital group use both Tensilica and ARM in the same product, each core a good fit for a different purpose, he said.
“They work well together,” said Tan. “You don’t have to compete because the market is growing fast enough,” he said.
Tan said he briefed ARM on his plans with Tensilica. He convinced an ARM exec to provide a quote blessing the merger in a Cadence press release. “I think they appreciated our candidness,” Tan said.
Indeed, Tan hopes to create a win/win scenario. IP cores can help the EDA sector grow in ways that enable the systems business to expand as well, he said.