Altium's sales drop, KiCad to become GCC for the hardware world?

Interesting reading found on Dave’s forum, commenting on Altium’s 2021H1 report to their investors.

For anyone interested, it’s EDA/Altium section, " The clown is here to stay".

First time after long-time, steady and double-digit growth, Altium’s sales dropped by 4%.
Among comments, there are many voices against Altium’s move to cloud based business model.
There are also voices that confirm KiCad’s great potential in taking the major role in the hardware industry.

Quote from jmw: “I wonder if they’ve internalized the precipice they are approaching. Altium will go the way of Borland. Nobody (outside of miserable non-competitive niche industries) is paying for compilers today, and in 5-10 years nobody is going to be spending thousands for an ordinary PCB EDA package. KiCAD is on the path to becoming the GCC of the hardware world.”

I think it’s a good moment to say big Thank you to our KiCad developers, for their involvement in making the greatest open EDA package.


Don’t read too much into sales drop. 2020 was a year of contraction and besides a few industries that boomed (signage for instance) others had to initiate furlough schemes and cut investment.

If growth has been replaced by contraction, a company won’t invest in an additional Altium license or upgrade their present license.


As Altium has shifted to a cloud based annual subscription model, a drop in sales means more than that. Stop paying and you lose access to existing designs.
Sadly, this could be a prediction of how many electronics companies shutter in the remainder of this year after furlough stops


Funnily enough, embedded electronics is precisely one of those niches. KiCad has a long way to go to compete with Altium for the high end (where Altium itself is not really a top contender).


Which is most likely why a lot of software companies switch to this model. After all it is even harder to change to a competitor if your current provider has your data.

But it also provides benefits to the users. After all if you do not own the data then you do not need the IT infrastructure and support in house (especially a benefit for medium-sized companies).

What is however clear is that certain industries can not use cloud based tools. But this can be circumvented by offering on premise solutions (not sure if altium does it already or plans to do it).

I would again not read too much into this as well. My guess is that a lot of companies are just a bit more careful with which employees have a licence. Questions like “you only use it to look at stuff so why do you have a licence?” will most likely more often be asked in a time of economic crisis (at least this is what happened at my company with our eagle licences – which is why i no longer have one).
And certain non-critical departments will potentially be asked to switch to something cheaper (like eagle or potentially also kicad).

And just to make it clear: yes there will be a lot of companies that will go under in the next years as a effect of the current crisis. But the fact that altium lost sales is not on its own evidence of this.


Please no, I hate gcc.
Clang ftw

I’m voting on the current pandemic causing a economic crisis, there is absolutely many companies still on shaky grounds. I know of a few small time defense contractors alone that are near the point of closing up shop soon and they are supposed to be recession immune businesses hah

I doubt KiCad has taken over many Altium seats. What it has done is displaced the low end products that used to be in the shareware space.or advertised in the electronics magazines in the old days.


We’re doing lots of embedded programming, and use the toolchain based on GCC.
Proprietary compilers are becoming less important, as embedded programming is heading towards standard architectures.
At firs KICAD will erode the market for low-end software, probably over time will also take over part of the mid-end market. Highend will probably remain for highend tools and not necessarily Altium.
We’ll see what will come in the future.

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Altium is not really the high end, it comes out of Protel (aka Tango in the US)
Cadence OrCAD or Mentor are in that area


It’s not so simple to compare something with GCC. It works as a simple analogy “KiCad may become as popular in its own field as GCC is in its own field” but not in any other more complex way. KiCad can’t be compared with GCC (or Clang). The reason is simple: C++ and C are highly standardized languages. GCC doesn’t have a file format to compete with other file formats.

Another reason is that GCC isn’t an end user application. It doesn’t have a GUI per se. End users very rarely use GCC directly, and then it happens with simple command line. On the other hand there’s no one standard GUI or frontend for programming, people use VS, Eclipse, vim/emacs etc.

The closest comparison would be with office applications. They are also GUI applications, complex pieces of software, collection of tools to edit different documents and they have their own file formats (or at least some native file formats like ODF). In that area Open/LibreOffice haven’t been able to replace MS Office.

Where the comparison with office software doesn’t work is that EDA is used by highly specialized people, engineers, and it will always be a niche market when compared to office tools. Even as a hobby it has a quite high barrier to start with. Most people who ever use desktop/laptop computers will at some point use office applications and O/LOffice is good for that. It came pre-installed with this computer. If KiCad would become pre-installed for everyone, people would become angry.


Some of the denizens of that forum are excitable. :wink:

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I don’t think that’s true. I contract, writing embedded software, and in the last seven years I’ve only come across one company that uses anything other than gcc. Most people are using the Eclipse
based freebie tools these days.

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Keil and IAR are still pretty popular.