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TI seeks embedded OS, FPGA partners

Posted: 11 Sep 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ti? digital signal processing? software tool? windriver system? fpga?

In an effort to advance its DSP agenda through new software tools, Texas Instruments Inc. is forming an alliance with embedded operating system (OS) vendor WindRiver Systems Inc. and may seek to join forces with some FPGA vendors, the company told EE Times.

The Dallas-based DSP chip provider said it wants its DSP/BIOS OS to have a standard way of communicating to VxWorks, WindRiver's flagship OS. The OS is supported by a wide range of embedded microprocessors, said John Schanzenbach, TI's DSP software platform manager.

Schanzenbach said there are certain applications based on DSPs that can do without an embedded processor, such as modems. But there are many applications, like cellphones, that still require a high-performance embedded processor to work in tandem with a DSP.

"We are not going to take DSP/BIOS and make it an OS (for embedded microprocessors). VxWorks is clearly one of the market share leaders there," said Schanzenbach.

The company's Open Multimedia Applications Platform for cellular phones, for example, uses both a TI DSP and an ARM processor. Designers today must develop proprietary communication schemes between the DSP/BIOS OS and the OS running on ARM, but Schanzenbach said designers would be better served if this were standardized.

The OS collaboration would span a wide range of embedded processors, including MIPS and PowerPC, he said.

A Wind River spokesman confirmed that the two companies are working closely, but could not provide details. Schanzenbach said details of the agreement are still under discussion.

Texas Instruments has been talking to FPGA vendors about working together on DSP software development tools. Leading FPGA vendors Altera Corp. and Xilinx Inc. have been expanding their DSP functionality in silicon and upgrading their DSP software tools over the last several years in a bid to gain market share in applications like basestations, which make up a large portion of their sales.

So far TI's talks with programmable logic vendors have gone nowhere because FPGA companies have been touting their DSP prowess so aggressively that TI considers it a competitive threat. "It is hard to collaborate when you are being attacked," Schanzenbach said.

Despite their ambitions to capture more DSP-powered designs, the upper management of some FPGA vendors appears to be more conciliatory. John Daane, president and CEO of Altera Corp., said FPGAs are often used as coprocessors in applications that already have a heavy DSP content, and that they are not necessarily intended to replace dedicated DSP hardware.

"We do not have any illusions that we are going to eliminate the processor DSP market," said Daane.

- Anthony Cataldo

EE Times

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