PARIS " In hopes of driving MIPS RISC cores deeper in a digital imaging market, MIPS Technologies, Inc. on Monday (March 8) disclosed a growing list of camera companies now shipping MIPS-based digital still and video camera models. The list includes Canon, Fujifilm, JVC, Pentax and Samsung.
MIPS, which has already seen its RISC core become a processor of choice in many digital set tops, wants to create similar momentum in the booming digital camera market.
Jack Browne, MIPS' vice president of worldwide sales, said its architecture, armed with a high-end synthesizable 32-bit product line, is migrating "into the 4, 6 or 7-megapixel digital camera market."
The list of current digital still and video camera models that use the MIPS architecture includes: Canon EOS 10D (digital Single Lense Reflex camera); Canon EOS Digital Rebel, Canon Optura 300 digital video camcorder; Fujifilm's digital still cameras, including FinePix F700, S5000 Zoom and S7000 Zoom models; JVC's high-definition digital video camera called GR-HD1; and Samsung's digital camera called Digimax 370 and Digimax 430. Pentax is not disclosing its model number.
Browne declined to comment on the company's share of the digicam market. He noted, however, that the emergence of megapixel cellular phone cameras is "distorting" the overall digital camera market figures, making it more difficult to estimate individual company market share. Browne stressed that Toshiba, NEC, Sunplus of Taiwan, Zoran Corp. and LSI Logic, who have been historically at the forefront of MIPS Technologies licensees, are pushing MIPS into new, higher performance digital camera designs.
Cracking the embedded digital still and video camera market, however, may be easier said than done. In a recent interview at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, Ikuya Kawasaki, department manager of the MCU and SOC business unit at Renesas (Tokyo), claimed its SH microprocessor and DSP cores, mainstays in the Japanese consumer electronics industry for years, dominate the global digital video camcorder market. Noting that a majority of digital camcorder manufacturers are Japanese companies, Kawasaki said, "SH literally owns this market."
But MIPS' Browne argued that in contrast to SH processor cores driven by Renesas and STMicroelectronics, "MIPS is much more deeply entrenched in a number of large semiconductor companies," including NEC, Toshiba, Philips Semiconductors, AMD and Zoran.
Further, Browne said a new MIPS technology feature called CoreExtend will prove useful for many camera designers. CoreExtend is designed to allow system designers to extend the functionality of the MIPS architecture, letting them define and add instructions that operate on data in the general-purpose registers in the same manner as standard MIPS instructions. While many digital video cameras use a combination of DSP and RISC cores for image processing, "CoreExtend can reduce the two cores down to one, thus saving the area of a die size and battery life," Browne said.
As digital cameras become a feature of more and more mobile handsets, the true test of MIPS' presence in the digital imaging market may be how well it does in the cellphone market. The market is currently dominated by RISC cores from ARM and DSPs by Texas Instruments.
MIPS is not ignoring the mobile phone segment, said Browne. "There are a number of different opportunities for us" and "we're winning some and losing some." As the performance of camera phones improves, Browne said MIPS will seek a bigger design role, particularly "in a 4G cellphone market."