FPGA prices are dropping, which should help move the programmable parts into new segments of the consumer applications market and opening the door for automotive applications. Xilinx Inc. has cut pricing for its low-end line by about a third, saying the move will make FPGAs viable in many new markets.
Market analysts predict that FPGAs will see solid growth in consumer and automotive markets, known for their high volumes. Consumer shipments will surpass $1 billion in 2008, roughly quadrupling last year's revenues, according to Gartner Dataquest of San Jose. Automotive will be slower, not atypical for this conservative industry, but will see strong growth compared to minimal shipments last year.
Volume pricing for a 100,000 system gate member of the Spartan-3E line is now under $2, a substantial drop from pervious versions that cost less than $3 for 50,000-gate devices. "We've doubled the gate count and cut the cost by a third, so essentially people are getting around a 66 percent improvement," says
Kirk Owyang,senior manager of Spartan Solutions Marketing at Xilinx. www.xilinx.com/spartan3e.
Xilinx is now shifting its focus from higher-end consumer products to less expensive, very high volume consumer electronics applications. "We've gone from set top boxes to digital video recorders to flat panel displays. Now we're targeting everything else in consumer electronics, anything you see in Best Buy, Circuit City, or an automotive electronics store," Owyang says.
Market Watch: Consumer electronics
should become a big market, while automakers will begin buying
FPGAs are growing in another field known for its focus on fractions of cents. "We're seeing a huge uptake in automotive," Owyang says. To date, automakers have rarely used FPGAs in production runs since their volumes justify ASIC development costs.
Underscoring growth projections, test and measurement providers are adding more FPGA capabilities in response to these usage increases. "FPGAs really enable a lot of new applications going forward," says Darcy Dement, product manager for modular instruments at National Instruments of Austin, TX.
FPGAs will displace low-end microcontrollers.