Everyone in chip design uses a browser - there’s little doubt in that. I’d wager that most chip designers spend more time in a browser than in any other tool, including the command line, emacs or vi text editor, the Eclipse IDE, and the logic simulator.
Today, chip designers are likely to use a browser for:
Though not a chip designer anymore, I’ve been spending more time working in a browser, especially now that I’ve warmed up to Google Apps. And I’m not alone. I’ve even heard of some chip design companies using it too. Now that the word is out that Google is building chips, there is a good chance that they’d use Google Apps. Let’s face it, there is a lot of spreadsheet work in chip design and Google Spreadsheets is quite powerful, especially in a collaborative context. There is also a lot of block diagram work too and Google’s new Drawings tool offers hope there. Whether you like web-apps or not, I think most chip designers would agree, the browser is increasingly used for legitimate work.
There are many areas in chip dev where the browser can play a bigger role, especially in a collaborative context. One recent example, is Synopsys’ Lynx Design System which appears to have a browser GUI for it’s Management Cockpit. At PDTi we’ve been pushing the limits of using the browser for all things register management, for capturing and modelling the executable specification and generating dependent code and documentation.
Google has been pushing the limits of what is possible in the browser. The impressive video showing Quake II running in a browser is mind-blowing and highlights the possibilities of HTML5 and the next-gen browser. This supports the argument that graphical EDA tools such as the simulation waveform debuggers and graphical layout tools are possible and could be supplied as a web application; perhaps even under the SaaS model.
Are the naysayers missing something here - could the browser be the ubiquitous platform for everything, even EDA tools and Chip Design?
A SpectaReg.com customer, generally happy with the user experience and beneficial value of the register-map tool, indicated that if we want to win more customers, we should think about improving the styling.
“It looks like an engineer styled it,” the customer said. “It needs more rounded corners.”
Being a practical engineer, all that really matters is functionality… right?
Well, not entirely. To get that first date, one needs a bit of style. Certainly, a company like Apple spends a good deal of time and money on style, and they get results. In the world of snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfboarding, style is paramount — executing the most difficult move doesn’t earn street credit without style.
“There were surfers with good style… and there were surfers that we would call cockroach style, or no style,” said Jim Muir in the legendary skateboard documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. “If you had a bad style… right there you had one mark against you…”
Our user was telling us that we had one point against us, so a web style consultant was challenged to help improve SpectaReg’s style without requiring radical changes to the underlying code.
A little time and effort on style really made a big difference — we don’t want cockroach style and we’re improving on it more and more.