SAN FRANCISCO Consumer and communications chip supplier Broadcom Corp. Thurs. (Nov. 9) introduced what the company labeled the first single-chip solution to support both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD standards.
The battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD, competing next-generation DVD standards with powerful backers, has been billed as the next VHS versus Betamax in some corners. But as EE Times reported recently, insiders believe that universal players supporting the standards will be introduced next year, taking some of the steam out of the fight. Such universal devices would presumably be powered by chips that support both standards, which are beginning to trickle into the market.
Broadcom (Irvine, Calif.) originally introduced a high-definition (HD) audio/video decoder chip supporting both formats in January. But the company's latest device, BCM7440, integrates significantly more functionality, according to the company, including a pair of MIPS cores, a multi-stream HD video decoder, dedicated graphics engines, DSP-based audio processors, a security processor, DDR2 interfaces, integrated video and audio outputs and an array of system and network connectivity interfaces.
The device supports all decoding, processing and memory functions of both specifications and offers a universal optical disk software stack that is compliant with both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, Broadcom said. The chip supports all profiles of both specifications and includes application programming interface support and full navigation suites, according to the company.
The goal of the BCM7440 is to offer system designers a complete platform that includes "all of the little things that other people may be missing," according to Don Shulsinger, vice president of business development for Broadcom's broadband communications group.
The company is providing a complete hardware and software reference design that reduces the development time and associated cost required of original equipment manufacturers, he said.
"We really have collapsed the entire thing into a single piece of silicon," Shulsinger said.
BCM7440 supports the all the mandatory audio and video compression standards required for Blu-ray and HD DVD optical disc formats, including H.264 VC-1 , MPEG-2, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Tru-HD and DTS-HD, Broadcom said. The BCM7440 also provides full backwards compatibility for current DVD video titles as well as DVD-R, DVD-VR and audio CDs, according to the company.
Shulsinger said he expects the second-generation DVD market to evolve in much the same way that the standard-definition DVD market evolvedinitially utilizing chips that provide the basic essentials and allows OEMS to build navigation systems and other differentiating features on top of them, but eventually evolving to expect more of the elements to be integrated directly within the chip.
This time around, though, Shulsinger expects this cycle to collapse into a much shorter timeframeroughly three to four years compared to roughly eight to nine years with standard-definition DVD.
"I do think that in the end it will be a shorter timeframe to higher levels of integration," Shulsinger said.
To that end, Broadcom has made a strategic decision to bring to market a highly integrated SoC at a time when most of its competitors are "still struggling to introduce first-generation devices" that support the competing formats, according to Shulsinger. A big part of this challenge is developing software that supports two different programming environmentsMicrosoft's HDi for HD-DVD and Java for Blu-ray. One of Broadcom's strengths, Shulsinger believes, is the company's perceived lead in software development, where he credited heavy Broadcom investment with enabling developers to fully understand the system.
"It's really only through the deep understanding that we have of the navigation requirements of both HD-DVD and Blu-ray that we are able offer this chip," Shulsinger said. "We really understand these systems. Not just how to make the chipwe understand what you need to make the system."