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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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FPGAs come of age

Programmable logic devices have a range of aliases, but whatever you call them, the technology is moving ever closer to the heart of system design.

When ignorance really is bliss

The other day in a conversation with a power engineer I had cause to reflect on how little I really know about power generation. As an electronics engineer I make use of mains power as a matter of course, but I actually know very little about the technology and challenges associated with making it and delivering it to every home in the country. I have a broad understanding, but I certainly couldn't design or build most of the devices necessary to do it.

Engineering skill and entrepreneurial management create global success.

One of the aims of the British Engineering Excellence Awards is to show that British companies are competing on a global stage and that companies don't need to be multinational in scale in order to be successful. The 2010 event has, once again, highlighted this fact. The winner of the Grand Prix and the winner of the Judge's Special Award have both shown that, despite being small companies, they are leading the world in their chosen fields.

All change in the fpga market

The programmable logic market has always been a hard place to do business. The reason? It's dominated by two big companies, which means other competitors have to carve a specific niche for themselves.

Will Actel disappear as an fpga vendor?

The programmable logic market has always been a hard place to do business. The reason? It's dominated by two big companies, which means other competitors have to carve a specific niche for themselves. Over the years, many companies – some big names – have tried the market and failed. Only one company – Actel – has stayed the pace, guided for most of that time by president and ceo John East.

An insight into Intel

Intel's Developer Forums (IDF) give the companies it works with an insight into where its technology is going. It's like drawing the curtains back just a fraction. Sometimes you have a clear image, in other cases, all you can see are indistinct images through a mist.

Is Oracle on the electronics acquisition trail?

Database giant Oracle has been looking at the electronics industry for years, occasionally making acquisitive style noises, but never really doing anything. However, Oracle has bought into the industry through the acquisition of Sun Microsystems – developer of the Sparc processor.

Bigger is better in the distribution world. Or is it?

The distribution sector, much like the eda industry, has been an avid believer in the mantra that 'big is beautiful'. In pursuit of that goal, the big broadliners have acquired all manner of smaller companies over the last decade or so. If you look at Arrow's website, it lists 30 such acquisitions in the last decade. That approach has left something of a vacuum. At the top of the pile – at least in the Western hemisphere – are Arrow and Avnet. At the other end is an array of specialists and design in companies. The middle ground has become increasingly empty; the few companies of reasonable size – Abacus was one example – have been acquired by one or the other.

Richard Noble's Bloodhound Project diary

Thank God August is behind us! For us August is a dead month – key contacts are on holiday and we lose half the team for their breaks. That's uncharitable, but the reality is that everyone needs the break –it's getting very tough now as the project advances into the build and delivery phase.

There are more questions than answers

There's a number of companies which specialise in the 'big event'. Apple is, perhaps, the most famous, using its Worldwide Developer Conference as the opportunity to introduce new products to an unwaveringly loyal audience. Intel and Microsoft are other adherents to the approach. These large, well managed events can be useful, particularly if the company is prepared to explain what it's doing. Where they fall down, in some respects, is where expectations are raised, but not fulfilled.

Things can only get better – or not

Some electronic components are becoming harder to get hold of and are now on allocation. Why is this happening? The reason, according to industry watcher Malcolm Penn, is under investment in capacity. Previous slumps in the semiconductor market have, in general, been driven by over capacity. But Penn says there was barely enough capacity before the global economy collapsed. When it did, more capacity was taken offline and investment in new capacity reined back.

Google balls mystery

Anyone switching on their pcs this morning can't have failed to notice that Google's home page is infiltrated by a large number of interactive coloured balls, which users can move around the screen.

What if Henry Ford was an fpga designer?

Over 100 years ago, when Henry Ford was conceiving a mass produced automobile, it was in an environment where cars were specified and built to order one by one. Each car was 'hand crafted' with the care and precision warranted by a fledgling auto market where society's elite were the only ones who could afford such a revolutionary contraption.

Closing the skills gap

The skills gap has been the subject of many commentaries over the recent past. The problem of an aging engineering population, combined with a decrease in the number of people looking to follow engineering as a career, means there's a shortfall. EngineeringUK summed up the problem in its report published at the end of 2009. According to its research, the UK needs to create 580,000 engineers in the next few years – replacing those who are close to retirement and to fill new jobs. This can only be done by attracting new entrants to the profession or by upskilling those from other sectors. That's a significant number of people and a figure that's not going to be attained overnight.

Nanotechnology - EU:1 UK:0

London South Bank University will be encouraged by EU funding of £1.5million for its environmental design projects – including major research into the practical uses of nanotechnology in manufacturing and industry.

Que vadis?

The furious pace at which innovations are brought to market is inevitable in an industry that thrives on competition.

Too much inventory?

Distribution has experienced more than its fair share of pain during the last couple of years. Business plummeted accross the board at the first signs of recession and the sector has been inching its way back since.

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