Altium Pins Hopes on China
By John Blyler
Rumors are flying as to why Altium is relocating its global headquarters from Sydney, Australia to Shanghai, China. The relocations have already resulted in the loss of a large portion of the company’s development team in Sydney. Key R&D developers will be retained with some moving to Shanghai. The company hopes to combine the key developers with local talent from Shanghai to grow its development, sales and support activates within the Chinese market.
Some have speculated that Altium may be pressured into the move by China in order to commercialize local Chinese IP into its product.
Other observers point to economics as the real reason for the move to Shanghai. A quick look at the company’s annual reports shows a 3 year decline of roughly 10% per year.
The official word from the company – via a press release – states that the, “primary motivation for the move is … that China represents the best location and opportunity for the execution of Altium’s plan for … (transforming customer) businesses from product-based models to a service-based approach where web-based ecosystems enable direct relationships between device end-users and device manufacturers.”
In a recent interview with Electronic News, Altium’s Head of Corporate Communications, Alan Smith, stated that “China is investing a trillion dollars in building an indigenous design sector so that ‘made in China’ will become ‘designed in China’. The centre of gravity of the electronics industry is moving to the country and we have made a decision to be part of that shift.”
A differing viewpoint on the focus of China’s electronics industry is offered by one of Altium’s competitors. Mentor Graphic’s PAD product line competes with Altium Designer for the lower end products that involve a single user or small group of designers building FPGA-based printed circuit board assembly.
John Isaac, Director of Systems Market Development at Mentor, suggested that today’s China is focusing on high-tech, high performance, large system products. “Some Chinese companies are competing directly with more advanced US companies, such as the way Hauwei (pronounced WAWAY) competes directly with US-based Cisco,” notes Isaac. “There seems to be a real shift in China from designing low end, more simple products to designing really high-end products.”
If this is true, then China may not hold as much potential for Altium as company executive’s hope.