New Delhi: The world’s largest chip maker for mobile phones, Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) is betting big on the emerging mobile Internet device, or MID, market, unlike rivals Intel Corp. and VIA Technologies Inc., that have invested heavily in trying to shrink the PC to the size of a mobile phone. MIDs, with their large displays, aim to deliver a rich PC-like Internet and multimedia experience on the move.
TI, which has a 42% share of the global cellphone core chip business, according to market research firm Forward Concepts, will bring out the third generation of its so-called OMAP—short for open multimedia applications protocol—power-saving processors early next year.
“We expect the high-end, consumer mobile devices to consolidate around the ARM standard, and not the x86 (PC) standard,” said Avner Goren, TI’s director for strategic marketing for its handset business unit, in a recent interview.
The ARM standard is based on the processor designs of ARM Ltd. While nearly all personal computers use the x86 architecture and almost all the commercial software available today support only the x86 architecture, Goren and his company see more and more consumers using an ARM chip for their computing needs.
Chips based on ARM designs, such as TI’s OMAP series introduced in 1999, are used mainly in mobile phones today, where they have a market share in excess of 90%. This is mainly due to their lower power needs and, increasingly, their ability to do high-end processing tasks such as multimedia playback.
Around 724 million ARM-based processors were shipped in the last quarter of 2006, according?to?ARM.
Goren believes that consumer requirements are more likely to be met by slightly faster phone chips, rather than slimmed down versions of the current PC-architecture. “Most people, today, use their computers for Internet browsing and media playback,” he says. His high-end chips currently clock speeds of around 300 million cycles per second (MHz), compared with the 1,000-4,000 MHz for PC processors. “Our new line of OMAP3 processors, now in sampling, will have four cores, each running at around 450 MHz,” he adds.
While many of the current generation ARM processors have two cores, TI expects to be one of the first to the market with a four-core, next generation chip for MIDs.
TI’s competitors in the semiconductor industry, Intel and Via Tech, have separate initiatives for trimming down the PC architecture (x86) for use on mobile devices, also called ultra-mobile PCs or UMPCs.
Unlike MIDs, UMPCs will support all the applications that run on a normal PC. However, they consume huge amounts of power.