The microprocessor industry is under pressure from consumers and system designers to produce chips that are faster and cheaper and use less power, but deliver more features, observed Cadence Design Systems Inc. CEO Mike Fister in his keynote address Tuesday, "What Consumers Want: The Next Big Challenge in Integrated Circuit Design." Most consumers dont want complex technology products, Fister noted. Yet what they demandfaster products with more featuresrequires that chip designers and manufacturers create more-complex processor designs that are inexpensive and low-power.Fister identified three constraints on chip design: time to market, managing complexity and cost. "Life was good in the 80s," he said. Then, he said, the military was a prime consumer of chips and was able to deal with complex products. In addition, he said, one or a few people could shepherd the design of a chip through the manufacturing process. "Then, you could attack design and manufacturing issues with humans," he said. But with the steady advances in microprocessor design bringing a constant increase in transistors per processor, "theres not anyone smart enough today" to do this, he said. "Everything is a multidimensional problem now," Fister said. When trying to make a chip that is small, low-power and easy to manufacture, "you tend to solve for one at the cost of another," he said. This, he said, is where Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, such as those Cadence produces, come into play. "We can focus on the breadth of looking at the problems all at once," he said. Fister compared the EDA market to the early days of the IT industry. "Everyone used to build their own operating system and their own databases," he said. "But now, after companies like Oracle and Sybase," he noted, "no one builds their own. This removes the drudgery of building everything from scratch and enables companies to focus on adding value to their products." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
"Tech customers arent constrained [in their desires] by what is technologically possible, " Fister said, "yet they are dependent on it."