The analog-to-digital conversion has introduced many new standards in audio and video, which greatly improves the quality and affordability of the multimedia digital experience. Further, with the proliferation of broadband, accessing the media has become easy and rewarding for consumers. With easy access and the rich quality enabled by the digital revolution, the following consumer electronic trends are emerging:
- In-Home Entertainment—With prices of flat-panel TVs (LCD, Plasma, and DLP) falling more than 30 percent a year, large screen HDTVs are showing up in more and more homes. With homes equipped with HDTVs, and high-definition (HD) content available through broadband, terrestrial, cable, and satellite, consumers now enjoy the complete theater experience in the convenience of their homes. HDTVs will become more mainstream with the imminent availability of HD content and DVD players.
- Staying Connected—Within a home and while traveling, consumers want to stay connected. Historically, they used their laptops for accessing email and the Internet. However, with terrestrial and mobile broadcast services for handheld devices becoming common and broadband wireless connectivity (WiFi and WiMAX) becoming ubiquitous, mobile devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and portable media players are being used to access audio, video, and data. Providers of these mobile devices are constantly updating their technology features to keep up with consumer demand.
- Media and Data Convergence—Traditionally, there were data-centric devices such as PCs and PDAs and media-centric devices such as TVs and portable media players. However, the line between them is becoming blurry because consumers are demanding products that can handle both. The new generation of consumer gadgets must handle both media and data on the same platform. Such convergence is driving many traditional data-centric companies such as Microsoft and Cisco to enter the consumer market, creating fierce competition for traditional consumer brands.
These trends indicate that the consumer electronics market is in a rapid evolution phase and the manufacturers are under tremendous competitive pressure to be first-to-market with unique and differentiated products. However, a successful product in the consumer market quickly attracts copycat products from the competition, leading to rapid price erosion. To stay ahead of the competition, consumer manufacturers are forced to constantly enhance their products or support emerging technologies. For these reasons, we are seeing a dramatic reduction in the consumer product life cycle.
Traditional design methodologies of using ASSPs or ASICs alone come with significant drawbacks. ASSPs come with a pre-defined feature set and rarely support the latest technology features, making it impossible for manufacturers to offer differentiated products. ASICs have long development cycles that run counter to the short product cycle requirements of consumer markets. Hence, new design methodologies that promote flexibility, rapid innovation, and low initial development costs are required. For system designers, this means using programmable logic devices (PLDs) along with ASICs or ASSPs to provide the agility and differentiation needed to be competitive in the consumer electronics market.
Why Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Are Choosing Altera
Figure 1 illustrates how the programmable logic approach can deliver first-to-market benefits in the initial release stage and, conversely, how relying on ASICs and ASSPs alone forces manufacturers into releasing products late or with dated features. A PLD/ASIC-ASSP methodology can assure rapid innovation to maintain industry leadership. This design approach can be effectively combined with a rapid and low-risk path from an FPGA to ASIC solution as production volume rises. Only Altera has delivered millions of FPGAs and HardCopy® series ASICs for consumer electronic product designs.
Figure 1. PLD-Enabled Development