Our final two forecasts for 2011 come from our product managers. Jason Abt shares his thoughts on tablet design in the coming year.
There's been lots of interest of course in the processor design wins in the mobile space, but there are some associated design decisions that are going to be just as interesting for me. The intense focus on mobile products over the years have been pushing the envelope for both size and power. We’ve seen many methods of reducing the footprint and height of packages – die thinning and stacking, process shrinks, package-on-package to name a few. We’ve also seen plenty of attention paid to power consumption.
We will undoubtedly see continued progress in these areas, with consumers demanding longer battery life and more capability from their mobile devices. We will soon see mainstream use of Through-Silicon Vias (TSVs) to provide ever more complex chip-to-chip connectivity. We will see the demand for faster and faster memory access speeds from relatively heavy duty operating systems running on big, multi-core processors.
But to me, tablets are a category-buster, that might – in some regards – buck the trend.
Many would argue that current tablets are really just smart phones in a bigger package. At least from the user perspective. But what about on the inside? Suddenly, system designers have much more area to play with compared to a phone. Why not take advantage of that?
As we see more tablets from more manufacturers, I’m expecting to see some interesting cost-cutting measures on the design side vs. equivalent smart phones. Why incur the added cost of using package-on-package for your processor and DRAM (and likely costly LPDDR2) when you can use a standard package and standalone DDR2? Do you really need a super-thin 8-die stack of Flash crammed into one package? You’ve got the space - why not use it?
As long as the user experience doesn’t suffer (and sure you could argue about power consumption) I think tablet makers – notably those with equivalent smart phones – will be jumping at the opportunity. Especially if consumers are willing to pay as much – or even more – for a super-sized version of what arguably does the same thing.