SAN JOSE -- Cirrus Logic Inc. has extended its Maverick audio strategy with a system-on-a-chip (SOC) solution that adds Internet audio functionality to personal digital appliances.
The new chips support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Audio format as well as MP3. Cirrus Logic said the Maverick IC is the first chip on the market with integrated support for Windows Media Technologies 4, and the family will allow OEMs to use the Microsoft format without requiring a license.
The EP7212 MaverickSOC combines an ARM Ltd. RISC processor with Cirrus Logic's intellectual property for peripherals and audio processing to create a single-chip solution that enables Internet audio in handheld consumer products such as pocket organizers, electronic books, and game platforms.
"We see a new market emerging for digital audio support in information appliances," said Matthew Perry, vice president and general manager for the Embedded Processors Division at Cirrus, based in Fremont, Calif. "With the rapid acceptance of Internet audio standards, such as MP3 and Windows Media Technologies, we see an additional market beyond stand-alone players. Many consumers want devices that provide multiple functions, so they don't have to carry digital audio players in addition to other battery-operated devices."
The Maverick line of system-on-chip devices is being unveiled at this week's Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. The series is optimized for vertical applications -- what Cirrus calls "Market Specific Processors."
"Unlike traditional, ARM-based ASSPs application-specific standard products, which typically evolve from ASIC designs, our Maverick MSPs are designed from the ground up to meet the unique needs of targeted applications, but with enoughdesign diversity to support product differentiation," Perry said. "Maverick MSPs offer OEMs the ability to control the chip's personality through software. This ability to customize allows designers to add new audio functions, like equalization."
The Maverick EP7212 also provides built-in support for a high-contrast LCD display, PC connectivity, and flash memory interface, giving OEMs a variety of value-added features to differentiate their products.
Cirrus is looking to take advantage of a growing shift in the semiconductor market from being PC-driven to the new breed of "e-appliances." According to research firm International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., this new product category for intelligent, special-purpose computing devices should overtake new PC unit sales by 2002.
The new EP7212 SOC utilizes an ARM 720T microprocessor core with an internal clock speed ranging from 18 to 74 MHz at 2.5 volts -- fast enough to match the performance of a 100 MHz Pentium PC. However, unlike the power-hungry x86 processors, the ARM-based ultra-low-power system design (less than 90 milliwatts at 74 MHz to 10 mW in standby) means extended battery life for handheld information devices running on standard or rechargeable batteries.
Drawing on the company's expertise in designing standards-based products, Cirrus Logic offers the fastest ARM 7T core on the market at 74 MHz. With MP3 decoding using less than 45 MHz, the chip's remaining processing power can be applied to support additional functions.
The Maverick EP7212 comes in a 208-pin LQFP and a 256-ball PBGA package. Samples in limited quantities are available immediately, as are development boards. Production quantities are expected to ship in the fourth quarter. The unit price for the Maverick EP7212 is $18.75 in the 208-pin LQFP for quantities of 10,000 per year, or as low as $15.95 each in 100,000 quantities.