Ah yes the Papilio looked quite awesome! Also if you already have a Raspberry Pi there is the LOGI Pi that was on Kickstarter.
About the IP issue, yes more IP needs to be available for free (at least for non-commercial use). There is already OpenCores and similar sites, which work fine, but as @alex_m1 points out it is much easier to reuse IP that is described at a higher level. Think about easy it is to reuse a module in Node.js versus integrating a library in C on several supported platforms and different toolsets. This is what we're aiming at.
Yes chip design companies are generally big companies, but it doesn't mean that it has to be this way. Smaller companies are generally much more agile and innovative, and small companies do in fact manage to produce their own chips, just ask Andreas Olofsson of Adapteva :-) But yes taping out your own chip is far from frictionless though, I'm pretty sure this can be improved.
Just a precision that I think is relevant, especially in the context of libraries (as you say peripherals etc), it's important to have something that can be used by the community. Commercial HLS tools support their own proprietary, mutually incompatible versions of C/C++ and SystemC :-( That pretty much guarantees fragmentation of the community.
On Kickstarter/Indiegogo: I think it's important to look at ALL projects in a field, not just a couple. Sure, a couple do real well, but many have a tough time reaching even modest goals (for example, Max could relate the story about his Magnificient Galactic Arduino break out shield). In many cases, I think backers like to see a history of success before investing.
For example, one sucessful Kickstarter FPGA project is the Papilio Duo (yes, I am looking forward to getting mine). Note that the Duo comes from an established designer, with an existing community -- and has a lot of tools to make working with FPGA's easier (such as Arduino compatibility, Jack's DesignLab IDE, and a variety of Wings).
Another issue with FPGAs (or ASICs) is IP. When you buy a MCU, IP like CAN, Ethernet, and USB is already paid for. But if I add these to my own FPGA, it's my responsibility (in the case of CAN, I believe Bosch wants $2000, which is pretty reasonable, but still a significant chunk of change for a small project).
And given the power of small, affordable boards such as the RPi (now starting at $20), BeagleBone Black ($55, but with 1GHz CPU + dual 200MHz PRU's), I think most people will take the path of least resistance, and stick to regular programming (especially with the wealth of resources already available for Linux on ARM). (Another interesting approach: take a RPi and add-on a $15 XMOS starterKit).
First let me say i like the psoc, it's a nice family.
But for those who want a mcu+fpga based solution, using mcu+ cheap fpga could offer much better performance(200mhz cortex-m4 vs 67 mhz cortex-m3 in psoc, options for m4 fpu), better software support(more rtos's ,mbed/arduino support,vendor firmware support), and far cheaper price(maybe even 1/4 of a psoc based solution in some cases), portabiliy, versatility(combine whatever mcu with whatever fpga), and like you say, more FPGA cells.
BTW if there's a community that shares hls code for peripherials and such, you reduce the barriers for using your platform considerably - just copy some code, maybe change some minor detials and use the tool to compile. this is is always good for adoption.
As for chip design, i would imagine Chip design companies prefer to buy tools from big companies, even if they cost a lot. But for xilinx/altera , low price high level tools sure do sound attractive.
And in general - even with things like hls and easic, i get the notion that chip design is mostly a big company playfield.
Good point about projects and fast development, I agree.
Actually what you describe reminds me of what Cypress does with their PSoC, a microcontroller that includes programmable analog and programmable logic (although they're very careful not calling that FPGA but UDB - Universal Digital Block, I'm not sure why). From what their documentation states the amount of logic available seems a bit limited, but regardless you could very well design it with Cx.
I think that this kind of chip is very interesting, like a miniature version of the Intel Xeon + Altera FPGA or ARM Cortex + Xilinx FPGA. Another thing that I think has a lot of potential is eASIC-like technology, between FPGA and ASIC. The thing is, once you remove the obstacles and make IC design easy, who knows what can happen?
The thing is, the users of kickstarter projects don't generally look for developing at the lowest levels, they care more about fast development.
But i wonder - can a unique board that combines a nice mcu and and a cheap fpga(as accelerator, and complex io expander) combined with your language would appeal to professional EE's ?
The system might play a role similar to xmos's chips , but maybe with better features on the mcu side(software support,analog and unique peripherials) , without being locked down to a single supplier , while still have good ease of use ?
I couldn't agree more with the "engineering for everyone" concept. In fact, this is part of what we're doing at Synflow, we're applying this concept to IC (Integrated Circuit) design. The IoT is a great opportunity and is the best use case for custom IC, because if you want to make a mass-market energy-efficient product, nothing beats an application specific IC (ASIC).
Also, as you've noted, there are many projects based on microcontrollers (Arduino) and processors (Raspberry) in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Conversely, if you take a look at FPGA-based projects on Kickstarter, you'll see that they get at best ten times less funding. It's a shame, because FPGA is the best platform you get to hack at the lowest possible level (in the digital world). What other way is there to create an actual working system without CPU? One of our users coined the term "NoCPU", that's exactly what it is!