October 13, 2006 -- dspdesignline.com
On September 9th, silicon intellectual property licensor ARC made two related announcements: It unveiled a new configurable multimedia player subsystem based on its ARC600 family of cores, and announced a new partnership with Chinese silicon foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). Under ARC's agreement with SMIC, ARC licensees that design chips in China and use SMIC for fabrication will pay no up-front licensing fees, paying royalties only when their chips start volume production, and will receive a discount on development tools and support. SMIC will also provide hardened versions of ARC's configurable cores.
1. Very high-level diagram of the ARC player subsystem and software offerings.
The new player subsystem, shown in Figure 1, features an ARC600 family 32-bit RISC CPU with multimedia extensions. Mainly targeting inexpensive portable audio/video players and low-end cell phones, the subsystem is intended to provide designers with a low-power, low-cost solution that can be incorporated with minimal development effort. According to ARC, in a 180 nm TSMC G process that ARC claims is equivalent to SMIC's 180 nm process, the subsystem will have a silicon area of 3.5 mm² and achieve a clock rate of 160 MHz. ARC provides audio decoder software for MP3, WMA, AAC, and AC-3, as well as an MPEG-4 video decoder supporting QCIF resolution.
ARC's new offering is clearly intended to give Chinese chip companies an inexpensive path to incorporating the ARC player subsystem into their designs. It is notable that ARC is aggressively marketing its intellectual property in China, something that many IP companies have been reluctant to do for fear of piracy. For chips destined for the U.S. market, ARC may have some protection from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITU). In a recent ruling the ITU found Action Semiconductor, a Chinese chip-maker, guilty of infringing two patents held by US chip-maker SigmaTel. As a result, MP3 players containing the 207X, 208X and 209X chips from Action Semiconductor were banned from entry into the US.
For BDTI's full analysis of the ARC player subsystem, see Inside DSP