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Whether it's comment on a recent story, a slightly irreverent look at the latest news or an expression of complete disbelief, New Electronics' editorial team brings you its views on the latest from the electronics industry, putting these developments into context.

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Time antici … pation

It is well known to afficionados of the Rocky Horror Show that 'time is fleeting'. The problem is that time is fleeting differently, depending upon how you measure it.

Small companies show the way

Once again, the British Engineering Excellence Awards (BEEAs) have shown that UK companies are up to the challenge of competing and holding their own on a global stage. And the Awards are showing just how good small companies are: for two of the first three years of the Awards, the Grand Prix has gone to a company with 10 or fewer employees and the Judges' Prize has gone to equally small companies over that period.

Scottish companies told ‘invest in R&D’ or die

Freescale has had a presence in Scotland since 1969, when the East Kilbride site near Glasgow was established by Motorola. It was one of the first inward investments into Scotland by an electronics company. Over the next decade or so, many semiconductor and other electronics manufacturers set up in Scotland, attracted by the grants and tax breaks being handed out by the UK government through the antecedents of Scottish Enterprise.

Short term variations hide the underlying growth in chip revenues

The semiconductor industry is anything but predictable, swinging between various 'boom' and 'bust' cycles, with the only differentiator being the severity of the swing. With its inherent ability to defy accepted economics, including the laws of supply and demand, the industry generally finds itself with too much inventory or too much capacity, but never in that happy land between the two.

Investing in the future

Interest in engineering as a career has been declining for some years. A number of reasons have been suggested, ranging from the fact that engineering is just 'too hard' via no jobs and poor salaries to other sectors being 'sexier'.

When patent trolls raid each other

Not only has the world become more litigious, it also seems to place more value on past innovations – and the patents derived from them – than new ones. With the current frenzy in patent acquisition from companies that no longer exist (like Nortel) and from companies that have a trove from past development (like Motorola), one wonders where it will all end. My contacts tell me that InterDigital Communications and its wireless patent trove will be the next company to be acquired.

Hype springs eternal

One thing of which you can be certain in the electronics industry is hype. It is an industry which has been driven, since its earliest days, by smoke, mirrors and elevated – sometimes unattainable – levels of expectation. And that's just electronics technology; the whole level of expectation gets racheted up when the technology is packaged into consumer products.

UK small companies continue to underinvest in R&D

What is it about UK companies and spending money on R&D? It's a continuing saga and something which appears to be driven by short termism, rather than being in for the long haul. In the days of the R&D Scoreboard – sadly discontinued by BIS as part of the Government's spending cuts – the UK would regularly be seen to be lagging other countries when it came to R&D investment. This despite the fact that attractive R&D tax credits were – and still are – available.

Will fpga designers be spoilt for choice?

The programmable logic market is notable not only for its products, but also for the large number of companies which have tried to get a bit of the action. Over the 30 years or so of programmable logic, some 60 companies have tried to break into the fpga business – including some 'big names' – only to fall by the wayside. Of this extensive list, only four could be deemed as having succeeded in any meaningful fashion – in alphabetical order, Altera, Lattice, Microsemi (the new owner of Actel) and Xilinx. The first and last in this list hold the lion's share of the market.

Educating tomorrow’s engineers

Young people, in general, believe that engineering in all its forms is dull and would rather do something else as a career. There's nothing particularly new about that, but it's a problem that is becoming more critical.

Can an engineer turn his hand to business?

The latest eviction from The Apprentice was Glenn Ward, dismissed from the programme by Lord Sugar with the parting words: "I've never come across an engineer who can turn his hands to business. You're fired."

The eco cloudy system thing ...

One of the bothersome aspects of coming to grips with new, popular shifts in technology is assimilating the barrage of terms and expressions that are introduced to convey the new concepts.

Intel ‘blinks’ as it claims processor road map is ‘inadequate’

ARM processors were once used primarily in mobile phones. Intel's processors, meanwhile, powered pretty much every pc. Then the world changed; smartphones appeared, tablet computers started to be developed and industry began to focus more closely on energy efficiency. Users needed different kinds of processor. ARM had seen this coming and developed a range of cores under the Cortex umbrella. The A, M and R families – aimed at applications, microcontrollers and real time, respectively – became attractive to a wider range of applications.

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