| PORTOMASO, Malta Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. will roll out in the second half of 2005 a scalable silicon architecture. The so-called "integrated platform" is scheduled for comprehensive use in Matsushita's Panasonic-brand home audio-visual appliances, mobile phones and portable audio-visual devices. |
Details of Matsushita's new semiconductor strategy were disclosed here Monday (May 2) at the International Electronics Forum.
The architecture has been five years in the making, according to Osamu Nishijima, executive officer and vice president who is responsible for Matsushita's semiconductor unit. Nishijima said the integrated platform can be "optimized, with no compromise," in a variety of Panasonic products ranging from digital televisions, DVD recorders to digital cameras, MP3 players and cellphones.
Until its major strategy shift, Matsushita tended to focus on developing dedicated semiconductor platforms, optimized for individual products, "thus creating barriers between different product categories," Nishijima said.
Asked how its integrated platform differs from system-level platform approaches promoted by competitors like Philips Semiconductors, Nishijima said, "This is not about designing a system solution based on a media processor."
Under Matsushita's strategy, system designers will choose whether to add more hardware engines with a particular data parallel processor to different products. More important for the integrated platform is that "software deployed in each product looks exactly the same to the system, regardless a variety of choices made by system designers," Nishijima said.
Matsushita hopes to integrate into its new platform reconfigurable logic technology developed by Elixent (Bristol, England). "When service providers offer new services, we will need the reconfigurability," said Nishijima.
Matsushita is not looking for the system-level reconfigurability often pitched by processor companies. "We want to use a reconfigurable core on a small part of our platform, such as hardware acceleration."
The integrated platform approach has also altered the relationship between Panasonic's in-house semiconductor company and its system divisions. "Before, we had an ASIC relationship," said Nishijima, with the semiconductor company responsible only for lower chip-level issues. With the realization that "shrinking technology is not almighty" in the design of integrated appliances, "software needs to be integrated into a system much more tightly," explained Nishijima.
This has forced much closer application-level collaborations between the two Matsushita divisions, he added.
Matsushita's gambit is risky. If successful, Nishijima estimated that the company will achieve five times more efficiency in product development in as little as two years. By then, the entire company will absorb the new technologies.