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Why Would Synopsys Acquire Synplicity?

The recent announcement that Synopsys plans to acquire Synplicity has evoked a lot of reaction from the EE design community as expected. This is not the case of a company acquiring another to extend its portfolio into a new technology. Synopsys has been in the FPGA synthesis market in the past with its FPGA Compiler, the offshoot from Design Compiler, and the FPGA Express, the low-end compiler targeted for the PC based EDA market.

The FPGA Express was competing with the early versions of the Synplicity tools, but was not a clear winner by any means. Synplicity tools stayed simple to use, and got better with every release and won more and more designs with time. Engineers also felt that Synplicity was more in tune with the ever growing complexities of the FPGA architectures, and the needs of FPGA designers.

The FPGA Compiler, on the other hand, was intended to be a more sophisticated FPGA synthesizer, targeted at high-end designs. The look and feel of this tool, and its features, were very similar to the Design Compiler — the Synopsys flagship –, and while it offered a lot of knobs to play with, it seemed to scare the FPGA designers away, who were happy with the capabilities of Synplicity.

As a result, while Synopsys has been the pioneer in ASIC synthesis, and a leading vendor of simulation and — to some extent — physical design tools, its FPGA tool offerings have not been anywhere close. So, this acquisition is the case of a company gobbling up another to replace one of its not-so-successful products with one that is best in class.

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