MANHASSET, New York -- Motorola Inc.'s Semiconductor Products Sector is set to announce Wednesday (October 22, 2003) the development of hardware and software platforms it said would accelerate the development of low-cost, mobile multimedia communications devices.
From smart phones to PDAs, from 3G to Wi-Fi and GPS, the two-core Mobile Extreme Convergence (MXC) architecture emphasizes both high integration and reducing the number of cores. It also stresses the complete separation of applications and communications processing to decrease development complexity and cost.
With the MXC, the company is showcasing what it classifies as one of the largest assemblies of advanced technology in its history. So armed, it expects to reduce 300 to 400 components on a credit-card size board to one package the size of a postage stamp.
Though the architecture was two years in the making, the announcement comes only weeks after Motorola announced that it would be spinning off its SPS division into a separate company. It is also a shot across the bows of competing wireless platform developers such as Texas Instruments Inc., which has cornered the bulk of the mobile market with its OMAP architecture, as well as relative newcomer Intel with its Personal Client Internet Architecture (PCA).
"Motorola has lagged on the applications processing side, and mobile in general, but this MXC could be what it needs to catch up," said Allen Leibovitch, manager of semiconductor research at International Data Corp.
Likewise, Max Baron, principal analyst at In-Stat MDR, said the new architecture is what the market was waiting for, adding that it would give the company the edge it needed, "to secure a solid share in an addressable embedded processors market that is expected to consume over 900 million chips by 2007." Motorola's "big challenge now is delivering on the silicon," he said.
According to Jose Corleto, systems and architecture manager for the wireless solutions division at Motorola SPS, the company expects to deliver silicon by the second half of 2004.
At the heart of the new architecture is an ARM1136 applications processor running at 400-MHz with L1 and L2 cache. It is complemented by a baseband processor based on a Motorola-enhanced version of the StarCore SC140 called the SC140e, running at 208-MHz with L1 cache. The two meet over a shared-memory subsystem that also incorporates an advanced crossbar switch to ensure nonblocking communication between devices.
According to Corleto, the baseband processor leverages the unique features of the SC140's original architecture that enable it to run both DSP as well as control functions. "This allows us to eliminate the MCU in the baseband that typically performs such functions as Layer 2 and 3 processing, radio resource management, protocol-stack processing and user interfacing."
With only one core required in the baseband running all the communications functions, Corleto said the MXC will both reduce development complexity while enabling the rapid development of applications on the ARM processor " without worrying about conflicts with the baseband or tying the whole system to FCC-mandated type approval whenever changes are implemented.
"Others have said they're doing this too," said Corleto, "but they still have some portion of the communications protocol running off the modem," implying that true separation does not exist yet.
While the DSP handles GSM up to Edge Class 12 air interfaces, Corleto said it can also perform the baseband processing for a Wi-Fi connection, as well as GPS and Bluetooth, thereby advancing the potential for integration. "The RF sections will remain off chip, though we have the ability to offer everything in a single package," he said. Support for 3G (UMTS) will be provided via coprocessors to perform the heavy lifting required for chip-rate and turbo-code processing, said Corletto.
Around the two cores, Motorola has incorporated patented digital rights management and security features to enable e-commerce applications. To tackle power consumption, the company has incorporated deep N-well biasing to reduce leakage, as well as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.
MXC represents the first mobile design by the company to incorporate both features, said Corleto.