With so much talk about analog integration and so much opportunity for integration given the advances in CMOS process technologies, it is puzzling why analog integration is not a commonplace event. Or maybe it is? To clear this confusion up, we organized a poll on PlanetAnalog.com, asking the question “Which application, in your view, is seeing the highest levels of analog/digital IC integration?” We gave readers (you) five choices based on our experience in the field. Some 30 percent of the approximately 1000 respondents saw integration helping Power Management circuits, 25 percent thought GSM/CDMA cell phone chips, 22 percent thought integration affected Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g), 8 percent on Bluetooth, and 13 percent on other mixed-signal application ICs.
If this poll reflects the proportion of real IC designs under way, it provides us with an important view of the balance of mixed-signal IC designs being built today. Interestingly, much of the market is focused on Power Management, GSM/CDMA cell phone, and Wi-Fi chips” together accounting for over 75 percent of responses. This data reinforces the industry notion that Wi-Fi development efforts get more attention than Bluetooth”something which is noticeable in the product market space where Wi-Fi product announcements are fairly common and Bluetooth announcements seem to have gone quiet. Notably, although Bluetooth is down on relative activity, some people are definitely active in this space. On the cell phone side, it is hard to say where the bias is on the GSM/CDMA product breakout. There is definitely plenty of CDMA (W-CDMA and CDMA2000) product activity out there, but GSM upgrades (integration of GPS, a move to CMOS single-chip solutions, etc.) are also happening.
Another interesting viewpoint for discussion, though not covered by the survey, is the process technology of choice. As recently brought out in a DAC panel session, CMOS is not the only obvious answer (with some debate, of course). Wi-Fi is an example application where solutions are stretching across Silicon Germanium, RF-CMOS, and vanilla base CMOS. For Bluetooth, base CMOS wins the day, but the question there is whether the products are single IC versus Analog IP core development. In general, it would also be interesting to see how many of these products are single vs. multi-chip IC's, and how many are Analog IP cores for integration in in-house or external System-on-Chips.