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AMCC to acquire PowerPC 400 assets

Posted: 16 Apr 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:applied micro circuits? ibm microelectronics design? embedded powerpc 400? risc processor? asic?

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. broadened its portfolio of IBM Microelectronics designs Tuesday (April 13, 2004) by acquiring the assets of IBM Corp.'s embedded PowerPC 400 series RISC processors. The move follows AMCC's purchase last fall of IBM's switching fabric IC design business based in France.

IBM will manufacture PowerPC processors for AMCC, and will provide the company process and design details of its CMOS processes and its SoC technology. IBM's own interest in the PowerPC 400 series, however, will now be limited to integrating cores from the family into its own ASIC and SoC products. Under terms of the deal, IBM will refer all sales opportunities for standard PowerPC 400 products to AMCC.

An IBM spokesman said that while it was true the most popular 400 series PowerPCs would no longer be sold directly by IBM, the company will sell some standard products derived from the 400 for set-top box and digital video markets.

AMCC will pay IBM $227 million in cash for intellectual property licensing and acquisition of affiliated products. Architectural licenses will allow AMCC to embed PowerPC 400 cores into its own designs, which could include physical-layer cores, switching fabric cores originally designed at IBM, and datapath processors from its MMC Networks network-processor business.

Dave Rickey, chairman and chief executive of AMCC, said that in addition to licenses AMCC will pick up a standard-product business in the 400 series that brought IBM revenues estimated at $55 million in 2003 for the 403, 405, and 440 processors. AMCC will hire approximately 70 former IBM design engineers and field application engineers working in the PowerPC business.

Tom Tullie, senior VP for sales and WAN businesses at AMCC, will manage the PowerPC business. Tullie said that in addition to storage and communication opportunities for the PowerPC 400, AMCC can pursue design wins in "pervasive computing" control-plane platforms, a new product line for AMCC.

"We can now pursue designs that span control-plane and data-plane architectures in one SoC methodology," Tullie said. Tullie added that hybrid embedded processors in markets such as consumer devices are following the shift from ASICs to ASSPs already seen in networking, and that the available market for such processors should grow from $1.86 billion in 2003 to $2.6 billion in 2007.

The deal does not give AMCC a corner on the IBM communications-processor business. IBM's own network processor architecture, nPower, was sold late last year to Hi/fn Inc. The move is another indication, however, of IBM's intent to spin off all merchant semiconductor businesses not directly related to ASICs and manufacturing.

Rickey emphasized that IBM will continue to control design evolution for the PowerPC 700 and 900 series for high-end servers and desktops, which will not change in the aftermath of the deal. AMCC will play no role in supplying processors to Apple Computer Inc., for example, Rickey said.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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