BANGALORE, India When Ittiam Systems was started in 2001 by half-a-dozen top executives from Texas Instruments (India), it was one of the first, companies here to focus exclusively on DSPs. A few companies like Encore Systems, Dacs Software and Wipro Ltd. have worked on DSP technology while spending most ot their time writing application software.
Hence, Ittiam stands out in India's technology landscape, and the startup found itself getting boost when its first product, an MPEG4 video decoder, was licensed to Sony Semiconductor in Europe. The decoder has since been widely licensed and forms the basis of larger system-level offerings from Ittiam such as video-over-wireless, media players, digital recorders and digital video cameras.
Unlike other companies here, Ittiam does not offer pure-play services, focusing instead on custom products. Here, the specification-level intellectual property is owned by the customer instead of being license d to them, and Ittiam's IP comes in at implementation stage. A wireless communication application for Kromos Communications Inc. (Fremont, Calif.) was Ittiam's first custom product design.
Ittiam's focus is on DSP systems for media processing and communication, including digital video, wireless LANs and voice-over- IP. It will add two more products soon. Based on customer feedback, Srini Rajam, Ittiam's chairman and chief executive and former head of TI's Indian operations. claimed the it is among the top five companies in each of the three product areas.
Unlike global DSP companies with development centers in India and whose focus is on developing core products and tools, Ittiam focuses on systems and applications. Its product line covers software on DSP and co-processor in DSP systems, reference designs for DSP-based systems and other components and soft cores for signal processing IP and products. Applications focused on communication (wi reline and wireless) and multimedia (video imaging and audio speech). "We find that there is more interest in system designs and core designs," Rajam said.
Ittiam has garnered crucial design wins in wireless, video, speech and audio both at component and system level in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Its current customer list includes more than 20 OEM and semiconductor companies including Fortune 500 companies. Ittiam declined to identify its customers.
Ittiam has about 28 products, including a WLAN product line (802.11 b/a/g) and the VOIP signal processing suite that offer the highest revenue potential. Long term, its digital video line would yield the most cumulative revenues through royalties.
Rajam said WLANs and the V.92 voice band modem were the toughest to execute. "In case of WLAN, it was the sheer magnitude, complexity and range of comptetency that were needed to put the entire IP together. To make it even more challenging, the time available to make the product happen was just around a yea r. In the case of V.92 modems, the difficulty was in the complexity of making 48 kbps data upstream mode work robustly and in making the modem interoperate with all commercially available V.92 modems," he said.
Products Ittiam has licensed to global companies include a VoIP signal processing suite including telephony functions and echo canceller to ARC International plc (Elstree, England), VoIP voice processing codecs to Texas Instruments, software system for a tapeless digital camcorder to Premier Image Technology Corp., a leading elecronics OEM in Taiwan, and video and image codecs to Veo (San Jose, Calif.).
The business climate has changed since Ittiam's launch. "The environment today is more difficult when it comes to attracting customers [and] business deals take longer to sign," Rajam said. Still, the company expects to break even in the next year.
Ittiam has launched a subsidiary company. Ittiam Semiconductor, to focus on system-o n-chip designs in association with Silicon Laboratories Inc. (Austin, Texas). Their focus will beon SOC designs, including mixed-signal SOC designs for wireline communications.