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MediaQ processors target portable, handheld apps

Posted: 16 May 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mediaq? katana? multimedia processor? multimedia co processor? application processor?

In a challenge to larger rivals such as Texas Instruments, Intel, and STMicroelectronics, fabless chip company MediaQ Inc. will introduce a new family of ARM-based application processors designed to enhance multimedia features on PDAs and smart phones.

MediaQ has designed its new "Katana" family around a new architecture that tightly integrates hardware-based multimedia acceleration engines with embedded memory. The goal is to "run applications faster but to consume less power," said Venkat Puntambekar, MediaQ's director of marketing.

MediaQ has focused on peripheral graphics controller chips or so-called application co-processors for portable devices. It is now seeking to compete more broadly in the mobile handset SoC market. It claims the Katana application processors could potentially replace CPUs, DSPs, or CPU/DSP combinations already designed into multimedia handsets.

MediaQ downplays the danger of collisions with larger rivals. Instead, Puntambekar said Katana is targeted at "a mid-end to slightly high-end market," which he said is not necessarily the focus of Intel's XScale or TI's OMAP solutions.

Nonetheless, industry analysts suggest that MediaQ is fighting intelligently to survive while offering viable alternatives to big handset OEMs. According to Max Baron, principal analyst and senior editor of Microprocessor Report at In-Stat/MDR, "MediaQ has already connected with a few powerful OEMs" by helping them integrate the company's previous generations of applications processors.

Baron noted, "MediaQ's best strategy is exactly what it is doing now: It must avoid its products being replaced by chips that offer both acceleration and CPU in one package, [therefore], it has added a CPU."

Todd Kort, principal analyst at Gartner Dataquest, agreed. "Katana can be a good choice for some products [and] models that are not targeted at the leading edge, but instead are focused on delivering good value." He added, "All of the major PDA companies have used a MediaQ chip in at least one of their models, which says a lot for them."

The first three processors in the Katana family are all based on the industry standard ARM922T and embedded memory. Each also features a different set of dedicated hardware acceleration engines.

The MQ9000 is integrated with a CCIR656-compliant camera interface and connectivity options such as USB and SDIO. It comes with hardware acceleration engines for 64-bit 2D graphics, MPEG-4 post processing, and Java.

The MQ9100 additionally supports JPEG compression in hardware for cameras that can stream VGA images, allowing users to capture and compress high-quality images in real-time.

Meanwhile, the MQ9150 enables JPEG compression in hardware for capturing mega-pixel camera images while supporting all the features available in MQ9100.

The MQ9000, priced at $14 in 10,000 units, is available now. Engineering samples of the MQ9100 and MQ9150, yet to be priced, will be made available to OEMs in July and September, respectively, according to MediaQ.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times





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