Electronic Design

DSP Is Spelled I-N-T-E-G-R-A-T-I-O-N In 2003

Wireless communications, particularly cell-phone handsets, will again drive the DSP market in 2003. This market is expected to account for 65% of DSP sales. Texas Instru-ments (TI) has led the DSP market since the inception of DSP and will likely keep that role in 2003. Consequently, TI will set the tone for technology trends over the coming year.

Increasing integration will be the talk of the DSP town in 2003. TI has made a huge marketing push with its latest OMAP family. These processors will be the focus of the company's roadmap. OMAP integrates the baseband processor (TI's C55x core) and the application processor (ARM925 core), along with numerous peripherals. This higher level of integration helps cell-phone manufacturers achieve lower parts count in the bill of materials and reduce component costs. It also addresses improved performance and power management for longer battery life.

Expect to see OMAP in mid-range and high-end cell phones. These can be either 2.5G or 3G designs. A foray into the wireless PDA space is also likely, where OMAP may start to butt heads with Intel's X-Scale PXA processor. But Intel's solution does not yet integrate a DSP core.

However, just integrating a CPU and DSP is not the only story for 2003. Integrating memory will also be a key feature. It's not possible yet to economically integrate flash onto the same die with the CPU and DSP. In 2003, flash will be incorporated in the same package using a stacked die solution. Intel has announced an X-Scale PXA with stacked flash, and TI has this solution on its roadmap for 2003. With this emphasis on integrating flash, Motorola will further emphasize its line of flash-based DSP chips.

OMAP was designed specifically for 2.5G and 3G cellular phone handsets. The goal is to provide a highly integrated solution that packs processing power for rich multimedia applications—high-quality audio and video—on cell phones and PDAs. The cell-phone market needs these enabling technologies to keep its customers coming back for upgrades and entice users to pay for more features.

The majority of DSP chips entails very low-cost devices, typically in the $6 range. There are very high-performance products, such as TI's C6000 family, Analog Devices' TigerShark, and several chips from Agere-Motorola-StarCore that cost significantly more and deliver substantially higher performance. These DSPs represent a very small niche of the overall DSP market—about 1%.

However, these are high-performance architectures with increasing levels of parallelism. These high-end DSPs also address voice and speech recognition, video and image processing, and high-end graphics. Looking back on the history of DSP development, it is very likely that the technology being developed for the high end will migrate into the mass market over the next few years. The performance of DSP will increase by an order of magnitude and still reach the low-cost price points that are required by the consumer.

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