Rick Merritt, EE Times(10/08/2007 9:00 AM EDT)Santa Clara, Calif.
-- A group at Microsoft Corp. is co-developing a media chip and is even investigating new on-chip bus structures. The activity is occurring at a time when semiconductor companies say they are increasingly delivering full software stacks with their chips, although they are not always compensated for the code.
Welcome to the next phase of the system-on-chip era, in which system, software and semiconductor companies are struggling to find new technology and business models. All sides see the promise for using multicore devices to open up fresh markets. The big question is how to define chip-level platforms.
That dilemma lies at the intersection of two developments. Designers increasingly start their work by defining the end-user scenarios or experiences they want to create. As they move to implement those concepts in silicon, they find an increasing diversity of hardware and software components integrated in complex, off-the-shelf chips with varying degrees of programmability, but not always optimized for the chosen tasks.
"We brought a value proposition for a system to a fabless company but found that no [chips] met our requirements, so we had to ask them if we could develop something together," said Robert Rossi, group program manger for core media processing technologies at Microsoft. "We had conversations with their CEO and found out we could do it."
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