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MIPS Makes a Big Step Into 32-bit MCUs

On Oct. 30, 2007 MIPS made a major announcement that it will license its core for the 32-bit MCU market.

Up till now MIPS is available from various silicon providers as a standard MPU, ASIC, custom, or an ASSP. An MCU is designed for more of the traditional control applications and has embedded memory for the main program. This distinguishes it from an MPU. It is a general purpose device, which sets it apart from the other types of deices.

MIPS is offering several cores:

4K series (entry level)

34K, 24K (mid performance), mainly automotive.

74K (high performance

MIPS is also making available its EJTAG debug. Various functions are integrated around these basic MIPS cores. The company is leveraging its recent acquisition of Chipidea to provide Analog IP. The market focus for the 32-bit MCU will be automotive, industrial and what MIPS refers to as multipurpose: consumer, communications, and smart cards.

The licensees who will develop and sell MIPS based MCUs have yet to be announced.

Semico Spin

Semico believes that MIPS entrée into the MCU segment will spur renewed growth for the architecture. A large portion of the MCU market consists of relatively small volume customers that rely on distributors. They cannot afford a custom part in terms of both time and NRE costs.

Since MIPS is a well established architecture, designers will be able to leverage the vast ecosystem that already exists. This will enable fast time to market.

The 32-bit MCU market is forecast to reach $4.2 B and 974 million units in 2007. Semico projects the CAGR 2007 to 2011 are 17.8% and 24.5% respectfully for sales and units. The largest markets for 32-bit MCUs are Automotive and industrial control. The smart card/security market is small but growing quickly. The automotive market will benefit greatly from the MIPS architecture. Algorithms are becoming more complex due to applications involving safety, fuel economy, pollution control, etc.

MIPS is a major architecture for the 32-bit embedded control market if we include all forms of 32-bit processing. Within the 32-bit MCU segment, in the last few years, MCU vendors with ARM-based products have seen a very strong growth. This opened up new markets for ARM. MIPS can also open up new markets by going into the MCU segment. This is a very competitive market and MIPS becomes another choice for designers. Semico imagines that by offering a MIPS core license some existing 32-bit MCU vendors will use it to fill out their MCU portfolios to cover a broader spectrum of applications. It could also be an entree for new vendors to this segment.

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