SHANGHAI Once just a chipset designer, Chipnuts Technology is looking to exercise some soft power to elbow its way into the Chinese market for mid- to high-end feature phones.
In a world increasingly dominated by platforms, the Shanghai-based firm is touting a Linux-based OS, a suite of business applications and an applications processor that are part of a reference design targeting local handset makers looking to design smart phones that would retail for less than $200.
Chipnuts is marrying its newly designed C7280 applications processor and its SmartNX Mobile software suite with NXP's Nexperia 5110LC GSM/GPRS chipset or Infineon's ULC1 GSM/GPRS chipset. It's a match that takes advantage of a recent trend in China. Basically, system designers use ultra low cost chipsets, originally targeted at basic handsets, and pair them with applications processors to create a powerful feature phone with an attractive bill of materials.
Having the in-house capability to create an advanced operating system, such as the SmartNX, makes it that much easier for handset makers to get their product onto store shelves. That's important in China, where mid-sized system developers don't always carry a deep bench of engineers and rely more heavily on chip designers for product integration.
Chipnuts didn't start out with this capability, focusing mostly on hardware up until about a year ago. Then after working with a local software design team on the NX platform, Chipnuts execs realized the need for such a team if it wanted to offer a complete platform. It bought the 100-man team a few months later. "In China, you don't get much value from software alone. We had the hardware platform, so it made sense for us to get together," said John Yu, chief operating officer for Chipnuts.
Now Chipnuts is ramping up the C7280 and SmartNX Mobile platform for customers in China. Called the Solution-on-Chip, it's on display at the NXP and Infineon booths this week at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. Chipnuts hopes to market the platform worldwide once it gets a few design wins under its belt in China, Yu said.