When John Cooley reported the results of his survey on the Springsoft acquisition by Synopsys, the results followed the trend. An impressive 78% of the respondents saw the acquisition as been bad. Not that this would change Synopsys mind, of course. And I am sure that most of these respondents will swallow their opinions and purchase the licenses from those they love to hate: the Synopsys sales force.
What is striking, since John sees himself as the voice of the engineer, is that practically nothing was said about technology. The two major concerns were cost and patents. The first one was to be expected. Designers always want the best for the least, a tactic that if followed by Synopsys would probably put the company's revenue at one tenth of what it is. There is a reason that Synopsys is number one by such a large margin: its products work and are worth the price. It is not like there are no alternatives.
In fact the alternatives are in general quality products that just fall short for one reason or the other. The most likely causes are poor support, lack of integration, or a corporate profile that does not assure long term viability, either of the product or of the company.
The second argument, that of patents is more interesting. The patents exist, thus patent infringement is a potential obstacle to innovation, no matter who holds the patent. But the respondents seem to think that a big company like Synopsys would be more proactive in defending its patents than a smaller company. This argument is totally wrong and shows how these respondents do not understand the technology sector. Without intellectual property a technology company is worthless. Thus should a small company determine that a potential competitor has infringed one or more of its patents, its corporate officers have the duty to defend the company and if necessary money will be found for the defense.
It is not true that patents held by a large company are a greater threat to competition than otherwise. There are two possible scenarios we can analyze. The first one is a small company potentially uses a patent of another small company. In this case both have reasonably equal resources to fight the case. Such event is not good news for either, since resources will be re-directed from development and marketing to legal. It would be in the interest of both parties to keep the legal activity as short as possible and come to "an understanding" before going to trial. The result is a leveling of the playing field with neither company getting an innovative advantage.
The second case is a legal battle between a large company and a smaller one. This will ultimately conclude in an acquisition of the smaller company by the larger one. The point will not be about the specific patent, but about market penetration. The classic case is the Synopsys/Magma battle. First Synopsys weakened Magma with a prolonged court action, and then, when the price was right, it acquired the company. End of the patent battle. Innovation may, or may not, continue in the new environment.
The bottom line: once again I am not impressed by results of the DeepChip survey: the results are highly predictable and change absolutely nothing.