SAN JOSE -- At the Embedded Systems Conference here, Zilog Inc. demonstrated how it hopes to prolong the life of the venerable Z80 8-bit processor architecture. The Campbell, Calif.-based company rolled out a new Internet-enabled version of Z80-based chips, while repositioning the product line for mainstream embedded applications.
Looking for new sockets in the far-flung embedded world, Zilog has launched the eZ80 Webserver--an 8-bit, 50-MHz chip series designed for use in Internet-enabled industrial applications, such as factory automation systems, point-of-sale terminals, servers, storage-area networks, and other products.
"You don't need an x86-based PC to drive your low-cost embedded applications," said Didier Le Lannic, senior vice president and general manager of communications for Zilog. "The eZ80 Webserver is an ideal system solution for low-cost, embedded applications," he added, during a presentation at the San Jose conference on Tuesday.
For years, Zilog has sold the Z80 chip into various markets. More than 20 years ago it was the Z80 was the leading 8-bit central processor in desktop computers. Later in the late 1980s and 1990s, the Z80 architecture took on applications in the traditional 8-bit microcontroller business.
But last year, Zilog repositioned the Z80 product line for the so-called "Internet-enabled embedded market" by adding a TCP/IP protocol stack to the chip series. The first device in this line was the eZ80, an 8-bit, 80-MHz controller designed for embedded applications.
Earlier this year, the company took this strategy one step further by saying that its Z80 chip line was optimized for the home-automation/networking markets. In other words, Zilog claimed the chip could be used in Internet-enabled appliances like coffeepots, toasters, alarm clocks, and other consumer products.
But Zilog appears to be changing its tune again, observed analyst Max Baron, who tracks the microcontroller market for Cahners In-Stat Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. "With the eZ80 Webserver, Zilog is shifting its strategy a bit."
"It's a clever shift," Baron added. "Zilog's move in the home-automation/networking markets were not well received. Some people stood up at their recent press conference and said: 'I don't want my coffeepot talking to my alarm clock.'"
It makes more sense for Zilog to reposition its eZ80 chip line for the traditional industrial markets, he said. "Industrial is a low-volume market, but it's also a good revenue market,'' added the analyst.
The new eZ80 Webserver is a 50-MHz chip that integrates 15 Internet protocols, including TCP/IP and HTTP. The Internet compliant stacks allow end-users to remotely manage, control, diagnose, and reconfigure their systems -- without using a dedicated PC.
The chip itself includes an eZ80 core, software, a multiply-accumulator engine, peripherals, and development tools. The new eZ80 is 10 to 16 times faster but consumes less power than the older-generation Z80 chips.
Using a multiply accumulator--which are found in digital signal processors--the eZ80 can execute secure communications-enabled algorithms for use in Internet-connected applications and equipment.
Unlike most 8-bit microprocessors that can only address 64-Kbytes of memory, the eZ80 Webserver addresses 16-Mbytes of memory without a memory management unit (MMU).
The chip is $8.15 for quantities of 10,000. It is now available in sample quantities, with volume production slated to begin in January 2001.