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Application processors a vanishing species?

Oct 16, 2007 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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ABI Research is forecasting that standalone baseband processors are set to become a thing of the past in the wireless handset market. Instead, says the firm, they'll be replaced by SoCs (system-on-chip processors) that integrate a baseband processor with a “multimedia-rich” application processor.

According to Doug McEuen, senior analyst at ABI, “most vendors use new semiconductor process technologies, 65nm and 45nm, to merge the two integrated circuits into one. This option requires less power, decreases the board space needed, and lowers costs.”

In ABI's new 29-page report, “Application Processors in Mobile Devices,” the firm concedes that the resulting SoCs inevitably sacrifice high-end multimedia features. Consequently, the “standalone application processor offers greater performance and much higher flexibility, which is perfect for the current smartphone market,” McEuen writes.

However, he adds, the low-end feature phone arena is “exactly what market vendors want to target.” As a result, “the pure-play application processor vendors will have to make a foray into the baseband processor market, if only to offer a complete line of processors, including the integrated variety.”

The report is claimed to provide a detailed exploration of application processor technology and the requirements for competitive architectures, including essential product capabilities. According to ABI Research, it also discusses short- and long-term market implications, and concludes with an in-depth market forecast.

Key silicon vendors highlighted in the report reportedly include:

  • Texas Instruments (TI)
  • Freescale Semiconductor
  • Qualcomm

TI, for example, offers the OMAPV1030, an SoC that integrates an ARM926TEJ core with a TI DSP. It supports GSM, GPRS, and EDGE communications, plus multimedia capabilities that extend as high as “3D gaming” and single or dual QVGA screens.

Qualcomm's “Mobile Station Modem” MSM7200 is an integrated processor with ARM9 and ARM11 cores, plus several DSPs. It is said to support WCDMA (UMTS)/HSDPA/HSUPA and GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks, 3D graphics, and accelerated video. Another example is the company's MSM7225, of which the company has provided few details since its announcement in February of this year. Rumored to be based on Qualcomm's Cortex A8 or R4 processors, the MSM7225 will be at the heart of smartphones selling for under $200 in the first quarter of 2008, according to the company.

Not mentioned by ABI is Renesas, which in 2005 sampled a somewhat mysterious highly integrated mobile phone SoC said to integrate an SH-Mobile-based application processor with a “dual baseband processor” supporting both W-CDMA and GSM/GPRS.

Another integrated SoC supplier, Broadcom, today revealed that it has begun delivering samples of a sub-$25 “3G phone on a chip.” The BCM21551 is built on 65nm technology and is said to combine two ARM11 cores with HSPA (high-speed packet access) modem acceleration, multiple radios, 480Mbps USB, and on-die audio/video subsystems.

Availability

ABI Research did not disclose pricing for its report, which is available now. More information on the report is available from the company's website, here.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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