A new industry consortium launched today has the goal of defining and promoting open hardware and software standards for interfaces to mobile application processors. The group, known as the Mobile Industry Processor Interface Alliance, or “MIPI”, was co-announced by founding members ARM, Nokia, STMicroelectronics (ST), and Texas Instruments (TI).
MIPI evolved from “OMAPI”, an alliance between ST and TI announced last December, which also had the goal of standardizing interfaces for mobile application processors. According to today's MIPI launch announcement, the “very strong” response to the earlier ST/TI OMAPI initiative identified the need for “a more representative formal industry organization.” MIPI is meant to answer that need, via an incorporated, not-for-profit entity with a wide range of member companies having a common goal of “defining and promoting open, standard specifications for application processor interfaces.”
By establishing consistency in application processor interfaces, MIPI hopes to simplify implementation and design of hardware and software, promoting reuse and compatibility in mobile devices, thereby accelerating time-to-market.
MIPI said its efforts are intended to complement existing standards bodies such as the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and 3GPP. Whereas those organizations focus on services and air interfaces, respectively, MIPI will focus on microprocessors, peripherals, and software interfaces, the group said.
MIPI said it is actively recruiting members such as handset manufacturers, semiconductor companies, hardware peripheral manufacturers, operating system vendors, middleware vendors, and software application developers to help define and promote the adoption of the new standard. As part of this effort, ten working groups have been proposed, to develop specifications in key areas such as camera and display interface, software abstraction, communications interface, and system control.
The following excerpt from MIPI's website provides insight into MIPI's goals and aspirations from a technology perspective . . .
The MIPI Alliance is primarily interested in smartphones and similar application-rich, networked devices. If the specifications are applicable to other categories such as PDAs or lower-featured wireless phones, the MIPI Alliance would support their use in those environments. MIPI Standards will impact both hardware and software in these mobile devices.
From a hardware perspective, a processor or system-on-a-chip typically has several ports or busses which interface to a variety of peripherals such as LCD displays, cameras, memory, or communications devices. In the context of the MIPI Standard, specifications for such hardware interfaces will impact both the processor chips and the external peripheral chips.
From a software perspective, applications and OSes must be aware of the underlying hardware resources. The software interface is typically low level code which abstracts those hardware resources from the higher level software such as applications and OSes. The MIPI Alliance seeks to improve the consistency and performance between OSes and the underlying hardware resources. For new peripherals or when a required API not provided by an OS, the MIPI Alliance will provide the specification requirement to OS providers for implementation.
The MIPI Standard will specify characteristics of certain common interfaces, not entire application processors or peripherals, so it is unlikely that MIPI Compliant products from different manufacturers would be pin-compatible. However, the interfacing of the application processors and the peripherals should be far more seamless than current products.
The MIPI Alliance is agnostic regarding air interface standards. MIPI Standards address the application processor and associated peripherals, so MIPI Compliant products could be used on any network such as GSM, CDMA, W-CDMA, PHS, TD-SCDMA, etc.
Three membership levels
The MIPI Alliance is structured in multiple levels of membership, with benefits proportional to contributions. Basic levels of membership enable use of specifications, while other levels of membership enable participation in working groups to define specifications.
Fees are currently set at $50,000 for “Promotor and Founder” level, $40,000 for “Contributor” level, and $10,000 for “Adopter” level members, with a 50% discount applied to companies having less than $250 Million annual revenues.
MIPI said it plans to announce new members in September 2003, publish the MIPI v1.0 spec for Adopters by the end of 2003, and publish MIPI v2.0 spec during 2004. Only members of the MIPI Alliance will have access to the MIPI specifications and the rights to use those specifications, the group said.
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