More than ever, TI is tying its future to the ARM architecture—and in the process it is changing from a DSP company into an embedded processor company. Look at its two latest processors, the DM355 and the OMAP3503 (which was announced on Tuesday). Neither processor contains a DSP, but both feature an ARM core.
TI already dominates the DSP world—will it be able to do the same with ARM? At least one third party thinks so. "We would be very surprised if the OMAP35x doesn't dominate the application processor market," says Ron Dicklin, Sr. Solution Architect at BSQUARE, maker of the OMAP35x WinCE board. Just don't tell the competition. TI's main competitor Marvell may be struggling to keep its grip on this market, but its other competitor Freescale is bringing on a strong counter attack, particularly in automotive.
Everybody wants to go multicore, but nobody knows how to get there. "There are no standards in multicore," says Greg Mar, TI's DaVinci marketing manager. "We've come up with our standards, and when customers see that they are drawn to our solutions." While I admire TI's ambition, I wonder whether how truly "standardized" its solutions will be. If TI goes down its own proprietary path, will the company suffer in the long run?
In many ways, this year's show is all about tools. Both Green Hills Software and ARM announced tool support for the DM355 and the OMAP3503. Meanwhile, I learned that TI's plans to move its Code Composer Studio IDE from a proprietary platform to the Eclipse open-source platform. All three moves represent a major opening of TI's tool strategy. The GHS announcement is particularly important, as the company offers excellent features for OS-aware development and debugging—a critical factor as TI moves into the embedded processing market.
"Open" is also the theme for handset trends. Today, service providers want to control the flow of content so they can control the revenue stream. Look for this to change as mobile Internet devices come into their own. "Service providers used to be afraid that opening up their networks would turn them into a dumb bit pipe," says Bill Krenik, CTO of TI's handset business, "But they are now realizing that a 'real' Internet connection allows them to differentiate by offering services that their closed competitors can't."
US engineering isn't dead—in fact, look for offshore engineering giants like Wipro and Ittiam to make a "land grab" in the US. "The story isn't about offshoring, It's about rightshoring." says Chris Hallahan, VP of engineering services firm Nuvation. According to Hallan, Indian and Chinese corporations want to launch US operations in the next year. "Silicon Valley is still home to the highest-value engineering, and these guys want to get into that maket."
TI clearly has a hit with the OMAP35x. I went to a session on the Mistral OMAP35x Linux development board, and attendees practically started a bidding war for the presenter's demo board. One attendee half-jokingly offered to pay in "small, unmarked bills."
Medical applications, which are typically very low-volume products today, are poised to take off. In developed countries, medical technology is underused because the equipment is too expensive. Thus, insurers don't resist paying for advanced tests. To make theses test widely available, the equipment must become much less expensive. In developing countries, the problems are a lack of doctors in poorer areas and a lack of equipment. Here, portable, easy-to-use solutions are needed. Companies like SonoSite are helping address both problems.