With the New Year, it's customary for editors, journalists, and all stripes of pundits to make predictions. And hey, 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 analog—and more of it—for both business and technical reasons (note: by "analog", I mean DC through RF).
On the business side, vendors with little or no analog expertise or experience are increasingly seeing analog functions, whether embedded in ICs or standalone, as both necessary and also a way to make decent margins due to analog's longer-lasting product lifetimes coupled with reduced post-sales support (analog ICs don't have that never-ending software-upgrade/bug fix cycle).
On the technical side, IC technology now allows for some pretty good analog 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 realize analog functions, and sometimes it is due to using digital compensation and correction techniques to achieve acceptable analog performance. Regardless of the reason, it means that largely digital ICs can provide some analog functions.
Finally, and most important, the rational for analog functions is growing, despite the fact that everything is going digital, if it isn't already so. Look at the five "pillars" of analog:
- signal input/output (sensors and transducer, real world I/O)
- power ICs and subsystems
- interfacing (level shifting, drivers/receivers)
- signal processing (op amps, 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 analog in 2010.
Yes, I am admittedly biased, but I still think I have a strong argument here!♦