Last month, Microchip announced a new 32-bit microcontroller chip family, the PIC32. With this family, Microchip—a long-time player in 8- and 16-bit microcontrollers—is going after the 32-bit microcontroller market, and making a big change in architecture. Unlike Microchip's earlier chips, which were based on the company's proprietary processor architecture, the new family is based on the MIPS M4K core. PIC32 chips, which are currently sampling, will operate at up to 72 MHz, with pricing ranging from $2.95 to $5.30 in 10K quantities. A block diagram of the PIC32 is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Block diagram of PIC32.
BDTI recently completed an evaluation of the MIPS M4K core, with a focus on assessing its signal processing features and capabilities. The M4K is not a DSP processor, but microcontrollers are increasingly called upon to do simple signal processing, so it's useful to understand its capabilities in this area, and compare them to those of the Cortex-M3.
Microchip's decision to move to a licensable core—and to the M4K in particular—appears to be a reasonable one. Time will tell if Microchip's customers will make the jump with them.
For more details on PIC32, see InsideDSP.