Paris - Philips Semiconductors is opening up its Nexperia platform to third-party developers as the first step in preparing consumer electronics OEMs for the "connected home," in which consumer products and personal computers can interoperate seamlessly within a residence.
Under an initiative called the Nexperia Home Partner Program, independent software vendors (ISVs) and system integrators will develop software that can run on a broad range of Philips' Nexperia Home Platform-based products, ranging from digital TVs and DVD recorders to advanced set-top boxes and home media servers.
"This is no longer about a point solution targeted at an individual product," said Jan Grotenbreg, director of business development for consumer businesses at Philips Semiconductors. Rather than cobbling together a complete-system solution with necessary software "on a case-by-case basis," he said, Philips will offer a broader application platform on which ISVs can "showcase their software" encompassing a range of digital consumer products.
Eleven leading ISVs have already signed up to develop middleware, applications and reference designs in support of the Nexperia family, Philips said. They are Allegro Software, ANT Limited, Blunk Microsystems, Cabot Communications, DivX Networks, ICT Embedded, Mediabolic, Momentum Data Systems, Planetweb, Streaming Networks and Wind River Systems.
This is not the chip industry's first stab at a platform-based approach providing complete silicon and software stacks with a reference design that theoretically makes it easier for consumer OEMs to swiftly develop the next hot consumer device. However, Philips points to the comprehensive nature of its solution as fundamentally different from previous efforts.
"We recognize big changes in the consumer electronics environment," said Grotenbreg, in which more and more systems are based not on chips with fixed-function blocks but on programmable ICs.
ISVs are encouraged to port their software to Philips' programmable Nexperia platform, which includes the PNX7100, a MIPS-core-based MPEG-2 codec designed for DVD+RW recorders, and the PNX8550. The latter chip, based on a combination of a MIPS core and Trimedia DSP core, is designed for advanced TVs, set-tops and home media servers.
There is no single dominant platform for consumer electronics systems today. Instead, myriad choices exist for point solutions. Grotenbreg said that many ISVs accustomed to working in the PC space are now actively seeking partners, like Philips, that offer "a single, highly visible program" on which to develop software.
Under the partner program, Philips will provide software development kits (SDKs) specifically targeted to ISVs. The kits will detail the Nexperia platform's underlying software structure, including a set of application programming interfaces for operating system and connectivity and another set for streaming audio and video.
The SDKs can become a vehicle for ISVs to develop software with a broader set of features and capabilities for a larger set of applications, Philips said. Consumer OEMs will find a much bigger selection of software solutions available on the Nexperia platform, Grotenbreg claimed.
A digital TV SDK based on the Nexperia PNX8550 system-on-chip is due in the first quarter and a similar kit for DVD+RW in the third. SDKs will include development hardware, software applications, and documented APIs and operating system. According to Philips, specific application support will become available to participants in the program as the kits emerge.
Grotenbreg indicated that the newly launched partner program is "only the first step of preparation" to situate the Nexperia platform in the larger context of the connected home the Dutch electronics giant is promoting. Under such a scenario, digital consumer devices will no longer be isolated, standalone boxes. They will be easily linked, wired or wirelessly, to other systems, including PCs.
Philips will showcase its own Nexperia system solutions, augmented with the value-added applications from the ISVs, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.