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IP shipments to see double by 2012

Posted: 02 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:shipment IP? processor core? DSP GPU CPU?

Seeing the processor intellectual property (IP) market as a growth opportunity for the chip industry, The Linley Group in its latest report, A Guide to CPU Cores and Processor IP notes that the chip designers will continue to reduce cost and time-to-market by purchasing third-party IP instead of developing the technology in-house and forecasts the market will more than double by 2012.

"Next-generation handsets and other digital systems are using multiple processors per device, driving market growth," said Joseph Byrne, senior analyst at The Linley Group and coauthor of the report. "Still, IP companies will be under pressure to sign new licenses and generate royalty income in order to sustain their costly design teams. Our report analyzes current market conditions and product offerings, describing the strengths and weaknesses of numerous companies and providing our opinions on which companies are in the best position to capitalize on anticipated market growth."

The handsets remain the largest target application for IP processor cores, as increases in functionality drive demand for multiple processors per device, the report notes. For example, the Apple iPhone and other smart phones require multiple CPUs, DSPs, and a GPU to implement the complex capabilities of the device. Advanced handsets typically implement one CPU for the user interface and applications, and another for communications. Similarly, separate DSPs may perform audio multimedia processing and communications. Finally, a GPU is essential for processing 3D and vector-graphics images, providing slick user interfaces, gaming capability, and the high-resolution displays needed for GPS navigation and full-featured web browsing.

Another high-growth segment is home-electronics applications, including Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and digital picture frames, which will create demand for processor IP to support high-definition audio and multimedia, advanced user interfaces, and Internet connectivity. Other markets spurring processor-IP shipments include flash storage, hard drives, media players, smart cards, and microcontrollers.

Double serving
Accounting for majority of the market, shipments of CPU cores hit 5.3 billion in 2008, and are expected to increase twofold by 2012. Although DSP and GPU IP come in smaller volumes, shipments are growing quickly notes The Linley Group. DSP shipments will grow at a compound annual rate of 20 percent through 2013, and GPU shipments in that timeframe will swell 60 percent per year.

ARM dominates the CPU IP supplier arena, and The Linley Group sees the company expanding its share further. Meanwhile, smaller players ARC and Tensilica offer customized solutions that should enable them to carve out niches, the research firm notes. MIPS on the other hand is well established and reaps among the highest royalties per core in the industry. The company uniquely offers a multithreaded CPU core and a CPU rated in excess of 1GHz. Ceva, the leading supplier of DSP IP, has secured many high-profile design wins, and this success should continue into a new generation of products as OEMs strive to maintain backward compatibility between 2G, 3G, and 4G designs. Pursuing audio and wireless-baseband designs, Ceva faces VeriSilicon whose ZSP DSP has also gained wins in these areas. Early to market, Imagination Technologies is by far the leading supplier of GPU IP but now confronts ARM and upstart Vivante.

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