Back in February, I wrote about the new Agilent InfiniiVision 2000 and 3000 X-Series of low-end, digital sampling oscilloscopes (DSOs) and mixed-signal oscilloscopes (MSOs). (See “Agilent knocks one out of the park with new, low-cost line of digital scopes—a very competitive entry into the low-end DSO market and a perfect example of EDA360 design using end-to-end design and apps.”) Agilent designed a 90nm ASIC that helped differentiate the company’s DSO and MSO offerings from competitors by adding some new features—not the least of which was the ability to display one million waveforms per second. These new features set a new bar for competitors to jump. Graham Pitcher at New Electronics magazine provides us with a more complete view of the competitive landscape in this arena with his latest article “Oscilloscope manufacturers provide more functionality for less”. The article covers many of the same details about the MegaZoom IV ASIC in Agilent’s new DSOs that I wrote about a few months ago but the article also quotes representatives from Agilent’s key competitors: Tektronix and LeCroy.
The first part of Pitcher’s article covers the features of the Agilent DSOs and the MegaZoom IV ASIC and it quotes Peter Kasenbacher, Agilent’s European product line manager for oscilloscopes, who comments: “Even in the general purpose market, new technology is playing an important role… ASICs bring better performance to a new price point.” This reasoning was the clear motivation behind Agilent’s development of the MegaZoom IV ASIC.
Later in the article, Dave Ireland—the European marketing manager with Tektronix—tells Pitcher: “Developing ASICs for these applications requires a substantial investment… We’re giving engineers the opportunity to access more features at an affordable price and that’s what’s behind the DPO5000 series; taking high end technology and migrating it to a Windows based platform.”
As for LeCroy, a new chipset incorporating a 40 Gsamples/sec A/D converter that allows the company’s WavePro DSOs to deliver 6 GHz measurement bandwidths with the desired accuracy. For example, says Bill Driver, product marketing manager with LeCroy, “There is a trend towards the use of analysis tools. A general purpose scope will only go so far to meeting their needs. Then, it’s a case of what else we can offer.” This comment underscores the feature race that’s taking place in this market.
And even in something as esoteric as a DSO or MSO, apps are important. LeCroy’s Driver says “There is a trend towards the use of analysis tools. A general purpose scope will only go so far to meeting their needs. Then, it’s a case of what else we can offer. For example, power supply designers need to know about things that aren’t normally seen on a scope. They’re asking ‘how do I solve problems which aren’t easy to see, but which are there?’.”
Apps define the product and also determine the truly differentiating features that must be realized in hardware for reasons of price, power, and performance. It’s true for DSOs, MSOs, and many, many other product categories. It’s the foundation belief of EDA360.