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Fearless 2010 analogue forecasts

Posted: 07 Jan 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:analogue forecast  RF power  digital IC 

With the new year, it's customary for editors, journalists and all kinds of pundits to make predictions. And why not? After all, making predictions is fairly easy. We're all interested in the future and what it may bring, and there's little or no accountability even if you are wrong.

What to do I see in the coming year? Not surprisingly, I see analogue—and more of it—for both business and technical reasons (note: by "analogue", I mean DC through RF).

On the business side, vendors with little or no analogue expertise or experience are increasingly seeing analogue functions, whether embedded in ICs or stand-alone, as both necessary and also a way to make decent margins due to analogue's longer-lasting product lifetimes coupled with reduced post-sales support (analogue ICs don't have that never-ending software-upgrade/bug fix cycle).

On the technical side, IC technology now allows for some pretty good analogue performance on digital IC designs. Sometimes this is due to the underlying semiconductor process, sometimes it is clever topologies used on a digital process to realise analogue functions, and sometimes it is due to using digital compensation and correction techniques to achieve acceptable analogue performance. Regardless of the reason, it means that largely digital ICs can provide some analogue functions.

Finally, and most important, the rational for analogue functions is growing, despite the fact that everything is going digital, if it isn't already so. Look at the five "pillars" of analogue:

• signal input/output (sensors and transducer, real world I/O)
• power ICs and sub-systems
• interfacing (level shifting, drivers/receivers)
• signal processing (operational amplifiers, filters, RF, log amps, RF power)
• signal integrity

These pillars aren't going away, for two reasons: the increasing speed and performance demands on all systems and designs, and the laws of physics. Given those reasons, I am pretty comfortable with the prediction we'll see more of analogue in 2010.

Yes, I am admittedly biased, but I still think I have a strong argument here!

- Bill Schweber
Planet Analog

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