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Why does STMicroelectronics license in FPGA blocks?

Posted: 14 Mar 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fpga? microcontroller? arm9? wireless?

It's not explicit in STMicroelectronics' press release but the company has incorporated a third-party's embedded FPGA block in its wireless infrastructure chip rather than use its own FPGA capability which has been under development for several years.

GreenField is an ARM9-based microcontroller while ST's FPGA R&D program seems to have evolved partially into an open-source initiative under the name GOSPL for Generalized Open Source Programmable Logic.

But why would the company spurn its own internal project and make a license deal with M2000 (Bievres, France)?

It could be that ST didn't spend any money on that license deal. Perhaps ST had run test silicon for five-year old M2000 in the early days and like a lot of startup companies M2000 would have had two things to barter with; its equity and its intellectual property.

In any case ST saw the question on FPGA sourcing coming and was ready.

"At the time we started the GreenField development we already had experience developing complex system chips with M2000. It fitted in with the cost, performance and timetable requirements. Our program to develop embedded FPGA internally is a separate R&D activity," a spokeswoman said.

One implication of this is that STMicroelectronics has several chips-worth of experience designing with M2000 FPGA blocks.

But if M2000 is so well established at ST, are subsequent licensors of M2000 blocks at risk of lagging behind ST in a variety of applications? And are there any circumstances where ST's internally-developed embedded FPGA would meet the, cost, performance and timetable requirements of ST product groups? And finally could M2000's success at ST be one reason for the internal R&D project's move towards the open-source?

- Peter Clarke

Silicon Strategies

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