Summary:

The growing popularity of new features such as inbuilt cameras, digital music players, messaging clients and stream video playback software, the demands of the processors inside the handsets have never been higher. Till recently the guts of a handset were made-up of two core processors, the […]

The growing popularity of new features such as inbuilt cameras, digital music players, messaging clients and stream video playback software, the demands of the processors inside the handsets have never been higher. Till recently the guts of a handset were made-up of two core processors, the digital signal processor (DSP), [which performs signal processing functions], and the microprocessor [which handles call processing.]

But the new multimedia features that include gaming resulted in demand for a new kind of chip called the applications processor. These three chips along with other sundry silicon while highly efficient compared to desktop chips, consume a lot of battery power. There are other advantages of this single chip as well.

* Lower overall royalties
* Smaller silicon footprint, which reduces the printed circuit board area, allowing smaller form factors and reduced cost.
* Easier integration and an easier debug of the combined software, which accelerates time-to-market for handset development.
* Allows the use of a single unified memory system, which in turn provides a saving in silicon overhead and possibly memory-access performance when compared with the traditional two-processor architecture.
As a result, the industry is now looking for “one chip fits all” processor that can do all of the above, has sufficient oomph and survives on a low-carb power diet. This processor is awkwardly named “single
processor cellular modem solution” is the holy grail and is part of the wireless future, argues NY-based research firm, Allied Business Intelligence. The first company to announce this “one chip fits all” product is Starcore LLC, the DSP solutions entity that was formed by Motorola, Agere and Infineon Technologies. Texas Instruments has also announced such a chip recently. Is this the start of a trend? “It depends on whether the performance of the single core is going to be optimum for the combined modem and call processing functions,” explains Alan Varghese, ABI Research’s Senior Director of Wireless Research.

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By Om Malik

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