In Electronic Component News (ECN): Roundtable Part 1

Experts Discuss Current Trends and Future Obstacles

With Art Swift of Esperanto…

“Over the last year, there has been an explosion of innovation in the chip industry. Personally, I have not seen this level of excitement and innovation since the mid-90s, when the RISC processor revolution was in full swing.

During the 90s, Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment, MIPS Computer Systems, and Arm (and its many partners) were attempting to disrupt the status quo in the computer and chip industries by building (and licensing) new RISC processor architectures. Semiconductor IP licensing soon boomed, and the fabless semiconductor industry was soon in full swing with dozens—if not hundreds—of new companies founded. Shortly after, the dotcom boom and mobile revolution fueled the next wave of innovation in chip and processor architectures.

This time around, the innovation is again the result of huge market disruptions—artificial intelligence (AI) and the advent of open standard Instruction Set Architectures (ISAs) such as RISC-V. These disruptions have each spurred an avalanche of funding for new companies, each focused on out innovating each other to establish a beachhead in the $50 billion AI chip market and the 50 billion unit Internet of Things (IoT) market of the near future. There have been $100 million or more in new chip-related VC investments, and once again, dozens of new companies have spawned. It’s not just the new markets in AI and IoT that are driving this capital influx, but it’s also the disruption of the now status quo processor IP licensing model by the free and open RISC-V standard. RISC-V was launched out of academia just a few years ago, and is already seeing incredible industry adoption, changing the underlying business model for the chip industry and creating a viable new business model for chipsets.”

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