Technology: February 2008 Archives

Bland leading the brand

23 February 2008

With some of the electronics magazines cutting back on their coverage of the electronic design automation (EDA) business, you'd think the vendors would be trying to do more to increase their visibility on the intertubes. Someone needs to tell the people who come up with the product names that, whatever they're doing, it's not working. The trend right now, particularly with the two largest companies – Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys – is to pick as anodyne and forgettable a name as possible and then coat every single tool they have with it.

One of them complained this week about not being name-checked in a recent feature. I had a look at why that was and immediately ran into a problem: I couldn't remember what the actual product was called. I could remember what it used to be called, but not its current moniker. That caused a bit of a problem when I went to the website I had to whittle down the list of possibilities by a process of elimination - and only because the company hadn't rebranded everything else in the meantime.

Take Synopsys. It bought a company called Virtio a few years back that does simulations of the blocks that go into system-on-chip designs. Then the brand police swooped in and called it...Innovator. I am so going to remember that. What was it again? To this day, in my mind it remains "the tool formerly known as Virtio". Unfortunately, that doesn't do a lot to help find it.

Let's whizz across to Cadence where every tool in the verification arsenal is now Incisive something or other. Now, the name NCsim was hardly going to set the world alight. But at least it was googleable. Now it's the Incisive Enterprise Simulator, unless it's the equally memorable Incisive Design Team Simulator. Not to be confused with the Incisive Enterprise Manager. OK Vmanager – Verisity's original name for the tool before the company got bought by Cadence – was not that much better but you can guess which one sticks in my head.

And the companies think these 'umbrella brands' are the best thing ever: even organising meetings to tell hacks they have just thought up a new umbrella brand for some group of otherwise unconnected tools. It's hard to suppress the response: "You got me here to tell me you're launching an umbrella brand. Are you kidding me?"