As SuperH Inc. launches its first embedded processor as an independent entity, the six-month-old spinoff is seeking to further distance itself from parents Hitachi Ltd. and STMicroelectronics Inc. by plotting a mass-market licensing and software strategy.
The SH5-100 series core, debuting today, offers 700-mips, 400MHz performance and consumes 400mW in 1.2V operation. SuperH claims it's the only 64-bit CPU on the market with a floating-point unit and SIMD instructions.
A general-purpose CPU for digital consumer applications, the core is software compatible with earlier SH processors designed by Hitachi and ST, even as SuperH works to escape its proprietary image.
"In order to do that, we have to make the technology available to a new range of users, distribution channels, and third-party foundries," said Rick Chapman, vice president of marketing and sales at SuperH, San Jose. "We're trying to reach the widest possible audience."
The comp any adopted a multitiered licensing model to allow access to the core based on usage needs. For example, an ASIC supplier may want unlimited access to the core for SoC designs, while a design service company may need a one-off license for a contract project.
SuperH recently named design services firm Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd. of Japan as its first "agency" licensee. Company executives also identified longtime Hitachi distributor Insight Electronics as an ideal agency partner, but said no formal pact had been reached.
Additionally, pure-play foundries are expected to have a significant role in enabling broad access to SH cores-a tactic successfully adopted by rivals ARM Ltd. and MIPS Technologies Inc.
"Up to Sept. 1 we had Hitachi and ST as foundry targets," Chapman said. "We're moving rapidly to port the architecture to independent foundries."
Along with easy access to the core, SuperH is working to simplify design-in by creating an on-chip IP bus. The SuperHyway SoC interconnect is a unif ied bus architecture that supports peripheral, basic, and advanced interfaces defined by the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance. The interconnect scheme is designed to let users plug in VSI-compliant cores without extensive rework or complex routing.
To advance the SH development platform, SuperH has designed a basic software tool chain and tapped RedHat Inc. to publish the tools for the open-source community.
SuperH has a good consumer electronics design base on which to build, said Tony Massimini, an analyst at Semico Research Corp., Phoenix. However, he said it may have to work hard to sell customers on its open-architecture concept, much as MIPS did when it was first turned loose from Silicon Graphics Inc.
"Now that they've been spun out, I think they have a better chance of succeeding," Massimini said.