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Marvell exec says hardware to drive next industry revolution

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Marvell? Internet? hardware? Kinoma? Raspberry Pi?

According to Peter Hoddie, VP of Marvell's Kinoma, hardware is making a come-back, but not just with a subtle reappearance. Similar to how Internet and mobile applications transformed the industry, so will hardware, he stated.

Everyone knows how the Internet changed the design engineering world. Hoddie tells us that was the first wave. It profoundly affected the way engineers think about the user experience, software and system designs. Then the mobile wave hit, sucking every developer's energy into mobile apps, even for a system design. If anyone was developing a system without mobile apps, well, forget about it.

"Now, I see the next wave emerging," he said. "It's hardware."

Peter Hoddie

Peter Hoddie, Marvell's Kinoma VP.

Hoddie, who developed QuickTime at Apple, now heads the Kinoma team at with Marvell. He shared about how hardware is triggering the next revolution. He was referring to the industrywide movement revolving around Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, PCduino, and other development boards, including Kinoma Create.

Those who might be domain experts but have no hardware engineering experience are getting eager to ride the hardware wave, especially in the context of the Internet of Things. "While some of these developers are making the leap, many more are looking on curiously from the sidelines, wanting to give it a try."

According to Marvell's Kinoma team, the Kinoma Create module includes a QVGA capacitive touch screen, an 800MHz Marvell Aspen SoC, WiFi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and USB 2.0 including USB On-The-Go. Additionally, it flaunts 128MB RAM, 16MB SPI Flash, a microSD slot, a speaker and microphone, wired (USB) and wireless (with optional battery) power options, and digital input/output (20-36 GPIO, configurable). Also, the kit features analog input (0-16, configurable), I2C (one physical bus and two soft buses), UART (one physical bus and two soft buses), and PWM (3).

Kinoma Create

Inside look at Kinoma Create. (Source: Marvell).

The company said that no breadboard is required for many breakout board-based sensors, and there is custom, lightweight Linux distribution to support the Kinoma platform.

The Kinoma Create mission is to simplify the hardware and software experience, "so more developers jump in and begin to make, create and tinker with hardware," Hoddie said.

As the Indiegogo crowdfunding deadline draws near (the campaign will close in two weeks), Marvell has sold more than 400 kits thus far. That's a small number when viewed through traditional semiconductor business practices, where big IC suppliers like Marvell have always striven to sell their ICs to marquee brands in big volume. But the Kinoma team's move illustrates big changes happening in the way chip vendors do business.

The team hopes to create a way to reach small and midsized companies. It also hopes to build a community around Kinoma Create developers. Hiring 500 field application engineers to support those who buy Kinoma Create was hardly a methodology preferred by Hoodie's group.

Since customers are ordering Kinoma Create for $100-$150 with their credit cards, "we now know who those people are," he said. "That alone is a big shift" in building relationships with customers. "But, of course, that's hardly enough."

Between now and September, when Kinoma Create is scheduled to start shipping, the Kinoma team hopes to ensure enough documentation, sample projects and example applications for Kinoma Create users to dive into. Being told to "create anything" may seem liberating, but in reality, many people find it incredibly tough, and they often get stuck. "But when we show them a sample project, they often come back with a response like 'I would do it this way.'"

The team's goal is "to create superstars out of those who are getting Kinoma Create," Hoddie said. "If they need certain sensors, for example, we'd pre-build it for them."

Kinoma Create module

The Kinoma Create module (left) comes with a host of sensors ready to get connected.

There is no proven model in the semiconductor industry for pulling off a project like this (selling a construction kit to individuals and turning the results into real commercial products), but the process might be similar to building a software developer community.

"That's something I learned when we developed QuickTime at Apple," Hoddie said. "We worked with a small group of designers very closely. Together, we validated technology and developed business opportunities."

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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