From Silicon To Software

 

Change Is Upon Us – Welcome to a New World of Innovation

IoT applications

By Mike Gianfagna, Sr. Director, Synopsys

Change often happens slowly. New technology hits the market, often ignored at first. Then it begins to take hold and gain momentum. Before you know it, the world around us has changed. History is full of events like this. Let’s look at a couple of recent ones. We’ll start with the World Wide Web. The first web browsers began to appear in the 1990s. Anyone remember AltaVista and Mosaic? I clearly recall searching the invention called the World Wide Web. Connection speeds were quite slow back then, so you needed patience. It was amusing to see some segments of information available this way. A lot more convenient than going to the library or investing in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Mike Gianfagna

The 1990s weren’t that long ago. A blip in the course of recorded history. Yet, during that time, not only was all human knowledge digitized on the web, but the network became the ubiquitous backbone of much of our world. Today, if the web goes down, a lot of life stops. The impact started slowly and then accelerated at an exponential pace.

Here’s another transformation worth mentioning. Remember the introduction of the Tesla Roadster? That was around 2008. It looked like a “kit car” based on the Lotus Elise chassis and sold for over $100,000. I know someone who bought one. That was a mere 14 years ago. Today, Tesla has fundamentally changed the automobile industry. Tesla is the most valuable car company in the world. Who saw that coming when the kit car was introduced in 2008?

There are a lot more stories like this. I’ll stop here. You get the idea. Let’s move on to the subject at hand – the new world of innovation.

Chips Lead, Chips Follow

Like the other transitions discussed, this one happened slowly at first, and then picked up momentum in an exponential manner. For many years, chips defined industries. Intel is a great example. Their X86 architecture created the PC industry. So many generations of computing were based on migrating to the next version of the Intel microprocessor. Companies like Nvidia rode the same wave for graphics acceleration. Qualcomm similarly defined a lot of new smartphone products based on what they announced. Life was good for these companies.

About 10 to 15 years ago, something started to change. Up to that point, the chip companies introduced new products, sent the software team the specs, and said, “Build your software to run on our hardware and we hope you prosper.” The change, subtle at first, was a reversal of roles. The software and the user experience started to be the leader, and the chips needed to implement that user experience became the supporting cast. One can argue that Apple saw this first.

I don’t want to get into too much history here but consider that Apple bought PA Semi in 2008 and essentially turned their product development paradigm upside down. The software team used to read the processor manual and write code. Now, the software team wrote the code and the hardware team built a chip to implement that code in the most efficient, lowest latency, lowest power way. The user experience was king in this model.

Apple has since become the most valuable company in the world.

The widespread deployment of AI accelerated the whole process. The algorithms used for pattern recognition in self-driving cars have been around since the 1950s. There was simply no way to run those (very complex) algorithms fast enough to actually drive a car.

Until now.

In the New World of Innovation, software leads the way and chips make it possible. If you can harmonize the software and hardware design flows, you can, in many cases, dominate a market and print money.

What’s Next?

This brings me to the subject at hand. Synopsys has been watching these trends with great interest. Partially for the history lesson. But more importantly, for the opportunity to make our customers wildly successful. We clearly see the shift that is changing the world (again). This time, it’s about blending software and hardware design to deliver a new world of innovation. We’re excited about the possibilities. You should be, too.

Want to learn more? We’ve published a comprehensive and informative discussion on all this. You can get your copy here. If you’re in the business of new product development, you need to check it out. No time to read it? Click on the video on our home page. In under a minute, you’ll be hooked.

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