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Multimedia ICs target China's PMP market

Posted: 01 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Vimicro Corp.? Actions Semiconductor Co. Ltd? multimedia chip? personal media players? PMPs?

Moving into personal media players (PMPs), Vimicro Corp. has introduced a line of multimedia chips, with reference designs and software, to court manufacturers with designs for PMPs, which are becoming popular in China.

Vimicro's new series, the Cube family, includes three chips that are ready to go and a fourth that is scheduled to come out early this year. The chips are a natural extension of the multimedia IC design work the company has done in the PC camera and cellphone markets.

The first few chips in the Cube series will primarily target the PMP market in China, where dozens of designs are popping up on retail shelves. Although the market last year was small at roughly 700,000 units, Vimicro believes it will take off this year.

When the market heats up, Vimicro hopes to snatch 20 percent to 30 percent of sales. To do so, it will need to square off with Actions Semiconductor Co. Ltd, another fast-growing China design house that has also been successful at serving local OEMs and ODMs that are primarily interested in China's market, as opposed to the United States or Europe. Actions recently released its Series 9 line of chips for PMPs.

Mike Yu, VP and chief imaging architect at Vimicro, said the company has developed reference designs and application software to make it as easy as possible for local system makers to adopt the chips. Inevitably, though, most system designers will still need lots of support for customization.

"They basically already have their own physical industrial design from their previous-generation PMP. We have to work with them and make sure that our design can fit into their case easily, so they can launch products quickly. It takes a lot of effort," Yu said. But that's the kind of attention that has helped some of the emerging local design houses find their niche in China. A good platform, heaped high with support, wins design-ins here.

The first chip in the Vimicro line is the ARM9-based VC0810, also called the x-Cube. It is a basic MPEG-4 solution with hardwired decode for video that plays files at 30fps at QVGA resolution.

It supports most popular audio formats, including MP3, Real Audio, AAC and WMA, and is enabled for SanDisk's TFP player.

ARM9-based x-Cube delivers MPEG-4 basics and includes hardwired decode for 30fps QVGA video.

The follow-on to the x-Cube is the mini-Cube or VC0858, aimed at small-form-factor and slightly more-fashionable devices. It's similar in functionality, adding support for FM radio and a 1.3Mpixel sensor.

The x-Cube is packaged in a 176-pin LQFP, while the mini-Cube comes in a 160-pin BGA package.

The magic-Cube (VC0812) is billed as a gaming MPEG-4 platform. In addition to its predecessors' features, it has an 8bit game emulator, a 2D graphics accelerator, video output and support for a 2Mpixel sensor.

All three chips are in production. The Cube line is expected to continue to grow this year as Vimicro targets more-advanced applications and features. By middle of this year, Vimicro will selectively add support for multilevel flash, On-the-Go USB2.0, Microsoft's DRM and higher sensor densities.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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