PARIS As John Bourgoin, leader of MIPS Technologies for more than a decade as president and CEO, retires Thursday (Dec. 31), his successor will find plenty on his plate. The new chief's to-do list includes: defending its turf against ARM; further proliferating its cores in new markets; and re-energizing the company as a new offensive player in the IP processor market.
To be fair, MIPS has already planted some new seeds -- critical to the company's long-term growth -- enabling a foray into the microcontroller and FPGA markets. The company's new efforts include the development of M14K core for microcontrollers, the introduction of new microMIPS instruction-set architecture, and a new architecture licensing deal with Altera.
A MIPS-based CPU in China -- enabled by the granting of an architectural license to the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) backed by Chinese government agency -- is viewed by analysts as also critical in helping MIPS architecture proliferate in China and elsewhere.
Three priorities for MIPS in 20101 are: focus on Android in the digital TV and digital consumer; facilitating software developers' ability to work with MIPS architecture; and eliminating ARM's monopoly in mobile devices," according to Art Swift, vice president of marketing at MIPS Technologies who recently spoke with EE Times.
Juggling all these different initiatives without losing focus, however, is the hard part.
In the past, electronics industry observers have been critical of Bourgoin's stewardship, faulting him for sleeping through the explosion of the mobile handset market, as MIPS eventually ceded the cell-phone segment entirely to ARM. Some in the financial community also blamed the long-time MIPS CEO for taking its eye off the ball in the CPU segment by acquiring ChipIdea, an analog IP company, which MIPS ended up divesting only after 18 months.
But the biggest blow to MIPS came this year, as ARM signed up STMicroelectronics, one of the world's leading set-top-box chip makers, to adopt the ARM Corte-A9 MP Core processor, in addition to the Mali-400 graphics processor.
This was particularly painful to MIPS, because the digital TV and digital consumer market is a core segment where it has always dominated.
Gary Mobley, a sell-side analyst from Noble Financial Capital Markets, told EE Times, "Had MIPS won ST, as ST transitions its TV and set-top box SoCs away from the ST core, MIPS would have made out like a bandit." He added, "ST could have been as large of customer to MIPS as Broadcom is today. Unfortunately for MIPS, ARM won ST."