May 11, 2006 -- The easiest lesson to draw from the consumer-electronics market is that integration is everything. Mobile beats portable. Palmtop beats mobile, and shirt pocket trumps palmtop. Even in desktop devices, such as game consoles, sleek packaging and low-manufacturing-cost targets depend on ever-higher levels of integration. This trend is not limited to low-cost consumer electronics. Perhaps inevitably, military, automotive, medical, and even industrial applications are demanding the capabilities that consumers want. The integration trend will likely spare only the largest and lowest volume system designs.
But the classic tool of integration, the SOC (system on chip) is running up against a technological barrier. SOCs advance by vacuuming up all the digital functions in a system until there is nothing of significant cost or function left outside the chip. But this approach eventually undermines its own success: When nothing is left to vacuum up, integration is over. Many system designs are approaching that state today. The SOC has absorbed all of the significant digital blocks, leaving only commodity parts, such as mass memory and passive components, with one big exception. Most systems still contain significant cost and functions in precision analog or RF blocks that have remained outside the SOC. Accordingly, these blocks have become the next frontier for SOC integration.
By Ron Wilson, EDN Executive Editor
This brief introduction has been excerpted from the original copyrighted article.
View the entire article on the EDN Magazine website.