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Renesas, Nazomi in mobile phone chip pact

Posted: 23 Sep 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:renesas? nazomi communications? video? java? mobile platform?

Attempting to speed development of a new class of chips for mobile phones, Japan's Renesas and Silicon Valley's Nazomi Communications Inc. said they have agreed to share technology used to accelerate video and Java applications on mobile platforms.

Under the agreement, Renesas and Nazomi said they will share patents and processing engines needed to create so-called applications processors, which are increasingly considered a separate species of mobile phone chip. Both companies develop their own application processors, but said they are cooperating to speed deployment and make the chips a focal point of mobile handset design.

"The baseband more and more is turning into a modem and is becoming less central as a processing point in the phone," said Brian Davis, director of business development at Renesas Technology America Inc.

Renesas said it plans to use Nazomi's Java technology, which is expected to speed the Java acceleration as much as 80-fold over software-only solutions, Davis said. The company expects the percentage of total handsets sold with Java capability will increase from 19 percent this year to 61 percent by 2006.

For its part, Nazomi will use Renesas' SH3-DSP processor core for future processors, the first of which should appear by the middle of 2004. Nazomi could also tap other hardware accelerators from Renesas, such as its MPEG-4 engine.

The companies cited the need to find a development partner to meet ambitious product development goals. Renesas expects applications processor shipments will increase from the current 600,000 units per month to 1 million per month by year's end, and plans to introduce several more processors next year. Nazomi expects about 2 million phones using its technology to ship by the end of the year. It is planning to introduce four more chips next year.

Though their devices will share some features, the companies said they will continue to design and sell their chips separately. Nazomi said it has plans to field four more applications processor next year alone; Renesas also said it has several in the works.

The companies have another common goal: to prevent ARM Ltd. and its semiconductor partners from dominating the nascent applications processor market. ARM's processors are already widely used in baseband chips, and are finding their way into applications processors.

Renesas, a joint venture company owned by Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp., has kept its distance from ARM, betting instead that it can win over customers with what it said is a more powerful and energy-efficient processor core. The company said it has had considerable success on its home turf in Japan, where multimedia phones are commonplace, and counts the mobile phone divisions of Hitachi, Kyocera, NEC, and Fujitsu as customers.

Nazomi has its own reasons for not working with ARM. For one, it is suing ARM on grounds that ARM's Jazelle Java acceleration technology infringes its patents. Even so, the company said it did not considered ARM as a partner for its application processors, said Jay Kamdar, Nazomi's chief operating officer.

- Anthony Cataldo

EE Times

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