Four months after the acquisition of VLSI Technology Inc., Philips Semiconductors is beginning to integrate the two companies' DSP and RISC-processor lines and plot a strategy for future-generation technology.
The June acquisition of VLSI, an ASIC specialist with a strong focus on communications, by Philips Semiconductors' parent, Philips NV, perhaps best known for its consumer products, has provided the combined entity with a plethora of processing technologies, but has left observers unsure of what direction the company will take.
Philips' recent public comments have only partially answered the questions. The company has pledged to provide interoperable software-development platforms, and within 12 months to deliver a next-generation processor architecture.
"It's a bit of a mystery how it's all going down," said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts Co., Tempe, Ariz. "There's no real reason [current product lines] can't coexist in Philips to serve existing product lines. I think for new products, they're going to have to pare down the portfolio to two or three common cores."
Philips plans to meld the DSP and RISC capabilities of the two companies to compete as a leading provider of "embedded DSP" technology to the communications market, said Ray Slusarczyk, director of marketing at Philips' Embedded Processing Group in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"As we combine our roadmaps, we want to keep the same kind of look and feel across all the cores, making sure the DSP development environment is common with current and future-generation cores," Slusarczyk said.
Despite their different backgrounds, the two companies have come to the same conclusion-they need to be successful in the embedded-DSP market, he said.
Before the acquisition, most of VLSI's DSP efforts were tied to cores licensed from DSP Group Inc. VLSI has previously introduced core offerings for ASIC implementations that use optimized versions of the Pine and Oak DSPs. This week, the company will demonstrate an optimized dual-MAC version of the Palm DSP core.
Although Philips has a long history in DSP, its products have been used primarily in internal sockets, and have not seen significant exposure to the open market.
Philips' Reconfigurable Embedded DSP Architecture Low Cost/Low Power (REAL) technology, introduced a year ago, combines a dual-MAC architecture with a VLIW instruction unit.
"Nothing is going by the wayside. We're not abandoning any of the architectures," Slusarczyk said. "We're going to take some of the attributes and build on them. We want to use the combined resources in executing a powerful, yet power-efficient architecture."
Philips will maintain high levels of development code reuse and provide as much synergy as possible in establishing software programs. Both the new Palm and REAL architectures use similar Mentor Graphics-based debugger systems.
Finding common development ground may be more difficult than Philips has indicated, Strauss said. "They can have tools and common interfaces, but not at the assembly level," he said.
Solutions for integrating the two companies' offerings are forthcoming, Slusarczyk said.
"We'll resolve this into a clear direction," he said. "We're not going to shotgun this like some of the guys out there who have licenses to everything that moves. In the next three to six months, we'll be looking to take advantage of the combined user base and migrate them to the next generation."