NICE, France Texas Instruments Inc., Symbian plc and Nokia Group have developed and will broadly promote a new platform for next-generation wireless phones. Nokia said it will be the first supplier to use the jointly developed Open Multimedia Application Platform (OMAP), which includes an ARM processor and digital-signal processor from TI, and the Epoc real-time operating system from Symbian. The companies hope to make the platform an industry standard for next-generation phones.
TI will offer OMAP as a standard collection of hardware and software building blocks to support the rapid development of next-generation wireless information devices with enhanced audio and video capabilities, such as MP3 and MPEG-4. Third-party software developers will be encouraged to write to the platform
The platform's hardware cores include the ARM925T, developed by TI as a variant of the ARM920T 32-bit RISC processor core, plus a derivative of the TMS320C54 16-bit fixed-point DSP. OMAP is designed to run Epoc and will also include peripheral circuits and a set of APIs. It will be supported by development tools, an SDK and development chips. The complete package will be integrated into custom system-level-integration chips, which will be produced initially in TI's 0.18-micron CMOS technology.
In announcing it's intention to use the OMAP platform, Nokia said it "will deploy this technology into its future wireless information devices and believes that the commitment and combined help of TI, Nokia and Symbian will provide an attractive base for independent software vendors and and DSP software developers," according to Yrjo Neuvo, senior vice president of product creation at Nokia Mobile Phones Ltd. (Tampare, Finland). "We are happy to ensure that all the building blocks are coming together in devices that will provide consumers with a totally new set of attractive features such as multimedia messaging and video on the move."
Nokia is a minority shareholder in Symbian (London), and uses a TI DSP and ARM processor in its current-generation cell phones. Other shareholders in Symbian include Ericsson, Motorola, Matsushita and Psion.
Leon Chicheportiche, European marketing manager for wireless communications business at Texas Instruments, said that OMAP will be available immediately to other developers of wireless information devices, and that resulting silicon will become available in mid-2000.
"The platform is independent of the modem logic and any analog circuitry at the moment," he said. "It is the digital baseband and control but it will evolve along with our process technology road maps. It is suitable for 2G, 2.5G and for 3G logic."
"Nokia was involved in the definition phase and we are happy with the result," said Sammi Inkinen, general manager of wireless data products at Nokia Mobile Phones. "We are sure the architecture will also be beneficial for the whole market."
Inkinen said that the platform met a number of requirements that Nokia had given to TI. The most critical of these were the performance of the user interface, the ability to run multimedia applications and power consumption, Inkinen said.
"Most importantly, [the platform] provides customers with a time-to-market advantage while allowing room to differentiate in software and in the Epoc operating system," Chicheportiche said.
The platform's ARM925DC will run at 130-MHz while the TI DSP will run at 200-MHz to deliver about 320-Mips performance, Chicheportiche said. "The DSP is a new architecture, an evolution of the C54X but able to run much faster," he said.
While Epoc is a basic element of OMAP, users will be able to make a free choice on the real-time operating system that runs on the DSP, Chicheportiche said.
The main mechanisms for supporting power efficiency are the single-chip implementation and the natural reduction in voltage and power consumption that comes with TI's 0.18-micron and 0.15-micron process technologies, the companies said. But "we have also done things in the design of the ARM925 to minimize accesses to external memory, and that can have a big effect on power consumption," said Dinesh Chhaya, European marketing manager for OMAP at TI.