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SiliconBlue shines in gloomy market

Posted: 07 May 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:low-cost FPGAs  handheld consumer  ASIC  FPGA start-up 

SiliconBlue Technologies Corp., a four-year old start-up backed by Rs.198.88 crore ($40 million) in venture capital funding, is aiming to buck the odds and thrive with low-cost FPGAs in a product market that has traditionally shunned them: battery-based handheld consumer products.

With products that promise low cost and low power consumption, at least one analyst—Gartner Inc.'s Bryan Lewis—thinks SiliconBlue is the most intriguing of the current crop of promising FPGA start-ups.

Low-end FPGAs have traditionally been unable to hit the cost and power budget requirements to play in the market for handheld consumer products. But SiliconBlue claims—among other things—to offer the first single-chip SRAM FPGA, the world's lowest-power FPGAs, small form factors and a product that costs Rs.49.72 ($1) per part in high volumes.

SiliconBlue's FPGAs, like other low-cost PLDs from established vendors, are aiming to displace ASICs and application-specific standard products in handheld devices. According to Kapil Shankar, SiliconBlue's founder and CEO, SiliconBlue will grow the total available market for FPGAs by expanding applications in high-volume, battery-powered markets.

Shankar said SiliconBlue's devices are the closest thing there is to an ASIC in the FPGA world. Compared with traditional FPGAs, flash-based FPGAs and complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs), SiliconBlue's ICE FPGAs most closely approximate the combination of cost, power and single-chip advantages offered by ASICs, he claimed.

"Architecturally we are an FPGA, but we should be called an ASIC," Shankar said. He added, "I understand that FPGAs have been claiming that they are like ASICs for a long time."

According to Shankar, SiliconBlue has more than 40 design wins so far. He said he expects consumer products incorporating SiliconBlue devices to start hitting store shelves by the end of the year. SiliconBlue so far has three devices in production, he said, and earlier this year began shipping early production quantities. By the end of the year, the company expects to have shipped more than 10 lakh devices, Shankar said.

"We are the first new FPGA company in more than 10 years with devices in production," Shankar said.

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