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Synopsys founder has plenty of work to do, isn’t interested in politics


By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Aart de Geus is not running for governor of California.

The Synopsys chairman and co-CEO denied that speculation in meeting with journalists Monday morning at the 25th annual Synopsys Users Group Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. In any case, Governor Jerry Brown just began his last four-year term, and there’s not another gubernatorial election in the Golden State until 2018.

“I have a life so interesting,” de Geus said during an hour-long, freewheeling discussion of mostly technical topics. In addition to leading the electronic design automation, intellectual property, and software firm he founded in 1986, which had fiscal 2014 revenue of $2.057 billion, de Geus serves as the guitarist of Legally Blue, a blues band that regularly performs in Silicon Valley.

The political process in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., is plagued by “diffraction,” de Geus observed, leaving little or no public consensus on important issues, such as climate change and water supplies. Synopsys has provided corporate philanthropy for public education in the valley and the Second Harvest Food Bank, among other causes and charities. De Geus said he personally supports the Environmental Defense Fund and Human Rights Watch.

As he noted earlier in the morning during his SNUG keynote address, de Geus spoke about the hardiness of Moore’s Law, which is often proclaimed to be dead.

“For 15 years, analysts have predicted the next chip is impossible,” he said. He recalled that while he was a student 37 years ago, semiconductor experts generally agreed that the industry would never produce chips with dimensions smaller than 1 micron.

“Everything is a constraint problem,” he commented. “It’s always been like that.”

De Geus added, “I have been surprised by how quickly FinFET has caught on.” Later on Monday, Synopsys customers testified about how they have designed chips with FinFETs using Synopsys tools.

Asked about the implementation of fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator technology, de Geus said, “The jury is still out.” He added, “We are seeing design starts.”

The complexity of semiconductor design and manufacturing is increasing, de Geus acknowledged. “Of course it’s getting hard,” he said. The industry will go through the usual period of hand-wringing about technical challenges, according to de Geus. “Then, we nail it!”

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