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LSI Logic's C-Cube bid part of home net push

Posted: 01 Jun 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lsi logic? c-cube acquisition? home gateways? mpeg? arm9 core?

LSI Logic Corp.'s move to acquire C-Cube Microsystems Inc. is part of a larger strategy to amass key IP components before tackling the market for home-gateway ICs this year.

The $878 million C-Cube acquisition, expected to be completed next quarter, is seen by industry watchers as a way for LSI to add to its arsenal of intellectual property geared for the home gateway. C-Cube was a pioneer in developing the MPEG video compression formats, and its main target markets include DVD players, recordable DVD systems and video storage systems that can record TV programs for later playback.

"This deal makes a lot of sense, and it all ties into LSI's plans to develop broadband infrastructure," said Tony Massimini, chief of technology for Semico Research Corp. LSI plans to make a big splash later this year in the home-gateway market by introducing a standard IC that will target high-end stbs. Still under wraps, the highly integrated home-gateway device will bundle Ethernet switching, VoDSL and DSL used for data, LSI officials said.

Patent portfolio

With C-Cube under its wing, LSI should have a free hand in building video functionality into devices for set-top boxes or other home gateways. A look at C-Cube's patent portfolio shows that the company has 68 US patents related to video encoding and decoding going back to the early 1990s. That should shield LSI from competitors that may try to block LSI's push into video through legal maneuverings.

Just as important, LSI will have immediate access to C-Cube's long list of customers that make DVD players and set-top boxes. In set-tops, C-Cube counts JVC, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Pace, Philips, Pioneer, Sharp, Sony and Zenith as customers. In DVD players, it boasts design wins in products from Acer, Aiwa, Hitachi, JVC, LG Electronics, Samsung and several manufacturers in China.

The upcoming LSI Logic gateway device will support up to eight channels of voice and will be capable of accessing both LANs and WANs.

Architecturally, it will include an ARM9 core running at 200MHz and a multitude of separate functional blocks, such as a discrete multi-tone engine and asynchronous transfer mode segmentation and reassembly. LSI also plans to add a wireless interface to the device, such as HomeRF or Bluetooth, in later implementations.

The device will be manufactured using the company's most advanced 0.13?m process technology, and is slated to be introduced by late 2001, Giuseppe Staffaroni, executive vice president for LSI's broadband communications group, said at a recent analyst conference in Phoenix.

"High-end set-top boxes will require two to three simultaneous TV channels, Internet and two to four voice channels. And it should have wireless capability to ease installation," he said.

LSI chairman and chief executive officer Wilfred Corrigan has expressed an eagerness to become more involved in broadband access to the home through STBs. "I think video to the home is going big time," he said. "If you are doing MPEG-1 over DSL, then MPEG-2 is going to be five times that bandwidth." Though ASICs will remain the core of LSI's business, products like the home-gateway chip underline a greater emphasis on standard products.

? Anthony Cataldo and Will Wade

EE Times

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