In a recent opinion piece in the electronics trade press, a well known editor printed a very controversial picture of the semiconductor IP industry, going so far as to say, “It’s simply a lost cause, with a questionable business model.?  The article created an outpouring of responses from IP vendors and many other members of the semiconductor industry, some going directly to the editor but many amongst the IP community members.

Whether or not you agree with the opinion piece, the article has caused people to consider about what is right and wrong with IP and to discuss what can be done to improve a situation which most people think is far from perfect.  The IP segment of the chip industry is unique in that there are hundreds of IP vendors offering everything from simple library cells to very complex video processing and encryption cores, the latter which would have been sold as separate chips just a few years ago.  The problem with such a complex ecosystem is that there is precious little commonality in the way IP vendors configure and sell their products and IP integrators evaluate them.  A first step in dealing with the qualification issue was taken by the VSIA with their Quality IP metric (QIP), but their work on this and other IP technical issues is being passed on to other standards organizations, including the IEEE, with the dissolution of the Alliance.  The business issues of pricing (getting value into the work put into developing the IP) and selling continue to bug the industry.

Getting people to talk about IP problems is a good thing and some solid results have already come about.  In a few weeks, the publisher of the aforementioned IP article will be hosting a panel to discuss how serious IP problems really are and some ways of overcoming these problems.  Susan Cain and I have also been approached by many companies and IP consultants about forming an IP industry organization that brings the IP companies together to discuss and find solutions to business and trading issues – EDAC with EDA tools and the FSA with foundries and fabless semiconductor companies have shown the value of such unions.  Such an organization makes a lot of sense, since the need for semiconductor IP will continue to increase as process nodes and time-to-market cycles continue to shrink. 

It behooves the chip industry to tackle the IP segment’s problems now in order to enable the continuing growth of the semiconductor market.  Talking about these problems, even if the talk was instigated by a controversial article, is a good first step in this direction and, hopefully, will lead to additional activities to ease the pain of IP integration.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: August 20, 2007, 3:27 pm | No Comments »