Low power is the new black

Today, Actel announced a new family of low-power FPGAs (PDF) whose power consumption bottoms out at 5 microwatts. Actel CEO John East told me that low power chips like these will let portable device designers add features while still keeping cost and battery life constant. Think ultrathin phones with Microsoft Exchange.

East proselytizes low-power wherever he goes. Not only are low-power chips one part of the solution to global climate change, but who doesn't want their laptop to have a longer battery life?

Actel is by no means alone in its focus on low-power. At February's International Solid State Circuits Conference, Intel released technical details for a new low-power processor code-named "Silverthorne" (a good name for a bodice ripper) which was just launched this month as "Atom" (not a good name for a bodice ripper). Intel launched the Atom processor specifically for mobile internet devices and computers that are designed specifically (and only) to surf the interwebs.

Actel's low-power FPGAs are part of a larger mission for East that includes re-engineering the country's relationship with nuclear energy and dominating the "Martian" chip market. I don't know if he's just really good at selling it, but he's definitely a great interview.


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