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Tensilica CEO: All roads lead to programmability

Posted: 12 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processors? programmability? multiprocessor? software?

The infinite appetite for live multimedia-based devices, especially for handhelds and devices for the living room, is driving the development of new silicon platforms. This, in turn, is causing the processor industry to move towards greater programmability.

Addressing members of the India Semiconductor Association, Chris Rowen, Tensilica president and CEO, spoke on the forthcoming chip design changes necessary to ride the multimedia wave, saying that the march to programmability is inexorable, as is the trend to use more processors on a single chip.

Another big change, according to Rowen, is that scaling will not be as crucial to the attainment of lower power consumption and higher clock speeds. Instead, scaling will enable better subsystem architectures and higher integration of multiple subsystems into chip platforms.

"The complexity and rapid change in media and communications standards needs more computation, more flexibility, more software, better energy optimization and broader expertise on the part of chip designers," Rowen added.

While form factor, power and battery life have always been important, these will become even more so, as products continue to go mobile or eco-friendly. Chip design must pay more attention to these factors, and they will become major selling points in the future, he said.

The implications of all these changes are that there will be increased emphasis on platform solutions and less on point products, more on processor-based products than on hardwired solutions, multiprocessor- rather than uniprocessor-based solutions, and C/C++ over assembly language.

"Processors must become more flexible, and programmability is the most universally accepted way of getting flexibility," said Rowen. "Besides, programmability can mean that products can have more 'hot' features at a little extra cost, and flexibility will result in more systems and designs. The industry is moving toward programmability."

Tensilica expects to see some basic shifts in how people are coping with the complexity of design, as designs are becoming more programmable, using many more processors and becoming platforms targeting specific application domainsa balance between being generic and specific. This balance is a major global, multimedia theme going forward.

Within high-volume semiconductors, the creation of new media-rich platforms is one of the biggest trends, as content and communication access methods are set to transform the experience individuals have using mobile or wired devices, especially for entertainment. This multimedia wave is fuelling chip-design growth and platform innovation around the world, concluded Rowen.

- K.C. Krishnadas
EE Times

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