Michell Prunty is Semico's Senior Consumer Analyst.  See her bio here

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More News from Intel Developer’s Forum

In addition to the news on WiMAX, UMPC and MID discussed in the previous article, there are more developments from IDF. Here is a brief review.

The next step in Intel’s MPU roadmap, Penryn, was revealed. This is a product family which will have several variants. Penryn is more than a die shrink of the current Core 2 Duo. There are some added features and a larger L2 cache, up to 6 Mbytes. Penryn is manufactured on 45nm. Intel is currently in full production at two fabs (Oregon and Arizona) with product shipping to customers by November 12.

Penryn is a native dual core MPU. Intel will also launch a quad core Penryn. However, this will be a pair of dual core MPUs in one package. This is nothing new for Intel. In fact, the current Xeon Core2 Quad is a pair of Xeon Core2 dual core (65nm) in one package. It appears that a pair of dual core Penryn will consume less die area than AMD’s Barcelona. The two die (quad core) Penryn is code named Yorkfield. The single die (dual core) is code named Wolfdale. In 2008 a notebook version of Penryn will be launched

The first native quad core MPU from Intel will be Nehalem. This will be a new microarchitecure scalable from one to sixteen cores. Nehalem is expected to be launched by mid-2008 using the 45nm process.

Richard Wawrzyniak Responds

Recently, Mark LaPedus of the EETimes wrote an article titled, "Opinion: Semi IP sector is a lost cause."

Semico's Senior Analyst Rich Wawrzyniak responds with Semico's take on IP here.



Intel Signs on with ARC

On Sept. 11, 2007 it was announced that Intel has signed a new multi-year, royalty bearing licensing agreement with ARC. The agreement covers several ARC products.

It appears that Intel will make use of ARC’s configurable CPU technology for its SoC development. The announcement implies that Intel had been an ARC licensee already. The announcement also indicates that Intel may utilize ARC products for wireless communications. It should be noted that in April 2007 Broadcom signed a 10 year extension to its existing licensing agreement with ARC.

ComicCon 2007: Content is King, and Other Observations on Digital Living

Frequent readers of the Semico Spin know that I am a fan of this convention and attend it during my family vacation. This is the fourth year in a row if I remember correctly which we attended. As I say every year, there were more geeks than you can shake a light saber at.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon (www.comic-con.org) it is the largest convention for comic books in the world. However, it covers a great deal more. Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented. These are usually tied in with comics and animation. There is also a strong tie in with video games. Attendance reached 125,000 on Saturday – the first sellout in the convention’s history. It is the largest convention through out the year for the city of San Diego.

Before going into more details about ComicCon 2007, some observations on “digital living” so to speak. When I go on vacation I cannot seem to take the analyst hat off completely. I don’t just lie on the beach and veg out – at least not always. It seems just a few years ago that internet connectivity, especially wireless, was a big deal. Now it has become relatively standard. It is pretty much expected not only in cafes but in summer rentals. I am no longer amazed at seeing people walking or jogging along the beach with iPods.

The Apple iPhone: Critics Miss the Point

Critics find things wrong. That is the nature of critics. If a critic finds something wrong, that shows how smart the critic is. But, with the Apple iPhone, the critics are completely missing the point. The iPhone is a revolutionary approach to the combination of a cell-phone and a music player. That’s why they’re flying off the shelf. Reports are that more than 500 thousand were sold in the first week. Everything else is just carping. Every maker of cell phones, MP3 players, portable media players or any other handheld electronic device is going to have to take the iPhone or its successors into account in planning any future product. The iPhone will act as a catalyst for new phone models and will help drive upgrades.

Here are some of the complaints and the Semico Spin:

· The iPhone is limited to just one carrier.

Semico Spin: What better way to control the ramp-up to full production and to speed up the response to any initial problems.

· The keyboard is allegedly hard to get used to.

Automotive Semiconductor Looks Bright

Although 2007 is shaping up to be a difficult year for the auto manufacturers, especially those lines devoted to large SUVs and trucks, the reality of high gas prices is the Achilles heel to auto manufactures. Demand for these vehicles is prompting production and job cuts. With that being said, there are many opportunities for the semiconductor suppliers in the short and long term. Fuel efficiency, hybrid technology and alternative fuel blends are the rage. This is opening the door to the use of more and higher complexity electronics to boost gas mileage.

Today hybrid vehicles have achieved about a 25% improvement in fuel consumption. This has been achieved by marrying electronics with two propulsion power engines, gas and electric. These are expensive to build and repair and actually have significantly more moving parts. A trend manufacturers really don’t like; as the moving parts increase the likelihood of a part failure tends to increase. Hybrids are a stepping stone to the plug-in electric vehicle that will sport a single drive train, electric. This conversion will result in vehicles that have 10 times less moving parts than current cars. Additionally, electric cars will consume more semiconductors than internal combustion propelled vehicles.

Currently the auto industry is developing several electronic systems that will see broad deployment in the next five years. The two areas are in safety and in cabin electronics.

ST Flexes new ARM MCU

Last week STmicroelectronics announced it next ARM MCU, STM32, based on the ARM Cortex-M3 core. ST’s first general market ARM MCU, STR710 was introduced in 2004. This is ST's first Cortex M3 MCU.

ST stated it was responding to customers asking for higher performance but with low power consumption. The company claims it is delivering on this along with a high level of integration. Code density is achieved with the Thumb-2 instruction set.

ST has designed the STM32 for battery operation. Target markets include point of sale terminals (including handhelds), USB devices, industrial automation, building security/fire/HVAC, appliances, portable digital consumer, and portable medical consumer products.

Initially the STM32 will be offered in a range, with a 48-pin, 32KB flash at $1.80 per 10Ku to a 100-pin 128KB flash priced $3.60 per 10Ku. Design kits are available 4Q 2007. ST is also offering a Motion Control Firmware Library (available 4Q 2007) which is aimed at industrial applications and appliances.

Semico Spin

New Intel Chipset Sets the Stage for Quad Core

Recently Intel announced its Intel 3 Series Chipset formerly known as Bearlake. This chipset is designed for the upcoming quadcore MPU code named Penryn, Intel’s first MPU in 45nm.

Intel 3 will be known as the X38 and G35 Express Chipset. This family will feature a front side bus (FSB) of 1,333 MHz and support DDR3-1333. Parts will be rolled out over the course of a few months from 2Q ’07 to 3Q ’07. The chipset is manufactured on Intel’s 90nm process. There will be several family members that will cover the spectrum of desktop market segments. This is a departure for Intel. Previously, older chipsets would be transitioned slowly out of the market by migrating down through the lower cost PC segments.

The nomenclature includes a key letter to distinguish some basic feature.

X: extreme processor (e.g., high end gaming systems), no integrated graphics core

P: channel processor, focus on performance of memory controller, no integrated graphics core.

Q: Business (Stable Image Platform), security and manageability features (vPro), with integrated graphics

G: Mainstream, consumer and business, with integrated graphics.

Semico Spin

Freescale’s PowerQUICC, Not Just for Communications

PowerQUICC has been a mainstay in the communications market for several years. Customers have found uses for it elsewhere. Last week Freescale announced a formal program to target industrial control and general purpose applications with PowerQUICC.

PowerQUICC is the PowerPC with a communications core added. The Industrial market is moving toward Ethernet-based networks. Freescale is offering a standard product and a development system with protocol stacks for the industrial control market. This is an alternative to proprietary ASICs and FPGA solutions. This will reduce the time to market as well as offering lower cost.

Semico Spin

Freescale is leveraging its experience and knowledge in communications and networking for the industrial control market. This streamlined platform for industrial markets provides the kind of flexibility, programmability, and price points that solutions relying on ASICs and multi-chip solutions cannot deliver. The security and reliability that made PowerQUICC technology pervasive in networking markets should translate well to Industrial markets.


Freescale Continues Advances in 3D Accelerometers and Touch Sensors

Last week Freescale announced its latest 3D Accelerometer (MMA7450L) and new Proximity Capacitive Touch Sensor Controllers (MPR081/2).

The MMA7450L is Freescale’s first accelerometer with digital output. It provides three levels of g-level selection and a freefall detect pin. Freescale is offering this in a smaller package and with lower current consumption. The goal is to match this with Freescale’s i.MX processor, a smart phone application processor. Freescale is sampling now and production is slated for August 2007.

The MPR081 is designed a rotary 16 position touch sensor, the sort that is used for MP3 players. The MPR082 is a controller for a touchpad that is a matrix with up to 20 keypads. These controllers provide a digital output and are based on a low-voltage, low current technology. The MPR081 is sampling June 2007 and in production October 2007. The MPR082 will sample in August 2007 and in production 4Q 2007.

Semico Spin

Freescale has been a leader in the accelerometer and sensor markets for many years. Portable and consumer applications will be a growth opportunity for these markets. These devices will enable new features in mobile communications and consumer products.

ARM Addresses Challenges of Future SoC Designs

Recently ARM announced its AMBA Verification IP. ARM has been growing at a strong pace driven by the mobile communications market. However, the non-mobile segment, while smaller, is growing at a faster rate. This includes enterprise, home and embedded control applications.

Another growing trend is multi-core. The eventual result will be much more complex SoC’s. These devices will become essentially subsystems on a chip. The increasing complexity leads to bottlenecks. The traffic management within the SoC will become critical. Designers will need a tool that addresses the on-chip communication.

ARM claims to offer a solution for verification and validation of AMBA based SoCs. One EDA company is already an early adopter. Early partner availability is expected for 3Q07 with product release slated for 4Q 07.

Semico Spin

ARM has a long track record of providing its customers with design tools not just CPU core designs. Semico sees ARM addressing future challenges in SoC design at an early stage. The growth of complex multi-core designs is enabled by such a tool.