Hoping to take advantage of the potential discontinuity as wireless handsets transition to next-generation platforms, BOPS Inc. today is introducing new families of its licensable DSP architecture, which the company believes will establish it as major new player in the emerging market.
BOPS says it can replace DSP handset sockets designed by DSP Group Inc., as well as eat into the established base of market leader Texas Instrument Inc.
"Seventeen companies took a license to ARM in order to have access to those hundreds of millions of units at Nokia, and today there are only a couple of companies getting volume, and TI is the primary one," said Mark Bowles, president and chief operating officer at BOPS in Mountain View, Calif.
"All those companies want to compete and make a business for themselves, but they can't buy TI DSPs," he said. "This dislocation in the market throws the cards up in the air for everybody, including TI."
Virtually a ll cellular handset designs combine an ARM-based microprocessor and a DSP core. Out of 416 million handsets shipped in 2000, 58% contained TI DSPs and 20% contained devices based on IP from DSP Group, according to Forward Concepts Co., Tempe, Ariz.
"We believe the users of DSP Group's Oak and Teak cores want to migrate to more advanced architectures in order to compete with the TIs and Intels of the world," Bowles said. "Those customers are our primary target."
In addition to attempting to displace DSP Group, Bowles said fundamental changes in the cellular handset market should give BOPS opportunities with traditional TI customers.
"In the past, Nokia had only a couple of handset designs," he said. "Once you got designed in, you shipped in every phone. The emerging phone is no longer a pad with 12 keys. The market is going to fracture with the emergence of a lot of different feature sets and create new opportunities for new players."
Although Bowles would not provide customers' names, he said BOPS has engagements with "two out of three of the largest handset makers," which currently are Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia.
Even within the licensable DSP arena, a large number of players are vying for position in the handset market, which is expected to grow to around 1 billion units annually by 2005, according to IC Insights Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz. Other DSP IP contenders include 3DSP Corp. and LSI Logic Corp. with its ZSP core.
Bowles said the next couple of years will determine which DSP IP companies will survive, and the handset market will be one of the major keys to success.
Founded in 1997, BOPS' has targeted its scalable VLIW-based core primarily at infrastructure types of applications requiring extremely high performance.
The company is now offering three new cores tailored for the handheld equipment market, the MiCORay and MoCARay for the cellular handset market, and WirelessRay for wireless LAN applications.
The cores are capable of providing or exceeding 1,000 mips perfor mance while consuming less power than competitive DSPs, Bowles said.
The new cores will be available as hard cores in the third quarter. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. has completed synthesis and physical design using a 0.13-micron, 1.2V process. BOPS licensing options include multiuse, per use, and single use.