ABI Research forecasts that sales of portable video players will grow at an 84 percent CAGR from 2003 to 2009. In a time of maturing markets and single-digit growth in many areas of electronics, the research firms says this kind of trajectory brings a gleam to many a semiconductor vendor's eyes.
Following computing in the 1970s and communications in the 1980s and 1990s, the latest wave of electronic portability is dedicated to entertainment, currently in the form of portable digital audio and video players.
"What processor ICs will enable portable entertainment devices?" asks Alan Varghese ABI Research's director of semiconductor research. "Video processing consumes heavy MIPs in order to decode the latest standards such as WM9 and H.264. It also requires flexibility to keep pace with constant changes in audio and video standards, and in connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, and ultrawideband."
So do portable entertainment processors need a DSP-type of architecture or an ASIC-type of architecture? The answer, says Mr. Varghese, is "yes" to both. DSP architectures are critical to providing upgradeability to state of the art standards and to minimize time-to-market. But the ASIC type of architecture is critical for the high speed processing at low power that is essential for portable devices.
"Vendors such as Philips Semiconductors seem to understand the problem well," observes Mr. Varghese. "With their Nexperia PNX010x series architectures, they offer system-on-chip solutions that provide software programmability in conjunction with low power processing."
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