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Programming the future
Interface Magazine interview with GOWIN's CEO, Jason Zhu


SAN JOSE, Calif. and GUANGZHOU, China, January. 12, 2023 GOWIN's CEO Jason Zhu is interviewed by the Interface Editorial Department. Jason goes over GOWIN's recent accomplishments and what is in store for 2023. 


  • What kind of company is GOWIN Semiconductor?


GOWIN was established in 2014 and I believe the company's value lies in its awareness of how to develop products that customers need to go directly into the market.


  • What kind of products are you developing?


Embedded Flash type small FPGA (LittleBee family) mounted on Tang nano board (Sipeed) and higher-grade basic SRAM type FPGA (Arora family). Each of them has a unique product development that is unique from other companies due to implementing additional memory such as pSRAM and SDRAM. We have also developed a USB soft PHY IP which is not found in other companies. In response to market demands, the LittleBee family provides devices with enhanced security functions and devices equipped with Arm Cortex-M3. We always start with the creation of products with the user in mind and provide various types of support along the road to development.


  • What is the corporate culture at GOWIN?


When looking at GOWIN from the business and corporate culture aspects, we strive to emphasize creativity.  For example, supporting the Tang Nano on the business side hardly contributes to sales, but we enjoy seeing veteran designers and new hobbyists using the platform to create something new. We would like to expand the base for products like Tang Nano to be used in education and hobby. If a product that is especially easy for young people to use enters the market, GOWIN will eventually be known as a company that supports Tang Nano. I think that supporting creative communities within the space is important for that purpose.


  • How is business going?


Since its establishment, the total number of shipments has exceeded 50 million. Starting from the Chinese market, sales have increased tenfold in markets other than China (as of 2021). GOWIN's main target market is industry with in-vehicle automotive being second. In-vehicle sales are mainly in China, and we would like to work in Japan in the future.

With the spread of EVs, GOWIN has become the No. 1 supplier of FPGAs in China. GOWIN devices are mainly manufactured at TSMC's fab (semiconductor manufacturing facility) in Taiwan. LittleBee and Arora have a process rule of 55nm. The new Arora V we recently announced also uses TSMC's 22nm. We have already acquired AEC-Q100 (in-vehicle standard), but we are planning to acquire functional safety ISO26262 next year.


  • What is your future road map?

We are focusing on future product development in 2023. The ES of the Arora V 60K LUT product will be announced in the 2Q of 2023. In parallel with this, the development of the Arora 7 series is underway. We are also considering cloud and data centers in the market, but our policy is to continue with industry as the focus. Currently, there are more cases where users cannot obtain parts or have difficulty grasping the future roadmap. GOWIN will continue to introduce products to the industrial market to solve such problems.


  • Could you tell us the position of the Japanese market, or rather, tell us about the top five countries in terms of sales, including China, and give us an approximate ratio?


GOWIN attaches great importance to the Japanese market. We focus on what makes the Japanese market unique and different from other countries. Market sales are divided into four regions. 1st China, 2nd Asia Pacific (including Japan, excluding China), 3rd America (including Canada), 4th EU (including Africa and the Middle East), China 55%, non-China 45%. I mentioned earlier that sales outside of China are growing more than 10 times higher, but domestic sales in China are also growing significantly. Due to supply chain problems and changes in the markets that our competitors were focusing on, we were able to enter markets that we could not previously touch.


  • Will demand for FPGA package standards such as QFP and BGA take precedence? Please explain how the creators make decisions.


Packages are driven by market needs. For the maker community, I don't like BGA. Debugging is difficult and expensive, and it is difficult for the user to check whether it is properly implemented. However, we supply BGA for users who need space-saving and more I/O. It is easier for GOWIN to distribute QFN and QFP. Even with a single lead frame for a BGA, each PCB in the chip must be custom-made. A general-purpose package can use a general-purpose lead frame. The number of pins is about 88 at maximum for QFN and at least 100 for QFP. Optimization for space issues and I/O count is something we can finally address.