The ARM vs. Imagination IP battle has moved into the realm of video processor cores for 4K streams, but there is at least one other competitor present.
"Setting H.265 support in silicon is a bit on the early side. You can do HEVC, but we suggest you do it with Mali support," Jem Davies, vice president of technology for ARM's media processing division, said to an analysts' meeting held last week in Cambridge, UK. The concern is clearly that the standard could change, leaving a circuit fixed today not offering all the specification or needing a work-around to meet it. Davies added: "We are doing it. It's just not in this product."
Meanwhile Imagination's PowerVR D5500 decodes nearly all the standards: H.264, VC-1, VP8/WebM, H.263, RMVB (Real Video), MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVS, VP6, JPEG, and HEVC/H.265. At the time of the core's launch, also in June 2013, Chris Longstaff, senior business development manager of Imagination, said: "Our customers need to build support for HEVC into their silicon today, and we are making it easy for them to do that by providing the industry's first complete IP cores with 10-bit colour depth support throughout."
Whether the core is Mali-V500 or PowerVR D5500, it has to be designed into silicon at close to the leading edge of IC manufacturing capability, which takes some time. In the case of V500, Davies estimated that it would be late 2014 or early 2015 before chips including the core and equipment including such chips would ship.
The conclusion is that Imagination holds the "high ground" in video processor cores and will defend its position, but ARM will continue to push forward trying to leverage the technologies it has, building synergies among CPUs, GPUs, video processors, security, and interconnect, and advocating the benefits of one-stop engineering and one-stop shopping.
But both ARM and Imagination have to be wary of Chips & Media Inc., a provider of video IP based in Seoul, South Korea, that has already achieved sales in China. Chips & Media recently introduced its own CFrame lossless frame buffer compression technology into its Wave410 HEVC decoder IP core, which is now available for license.
There's another vote that says HEVC is stable and the market will need HEVC-capable silicon next year.