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MIPS set to steal a march over ARM

Posted: 04 May 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile handset market  IP core  base band  processor 

Unlike ARM, whose core is based on a single-threaded architecture, "MIPS can offer more capabilities with fewer cores, resulting in a smaller die size and lower power consumption," said Vij. In contrast, it may take more cores for ARM to accomplish the same task (running multiple apps). Vij added, "Of course, MIPS can be used as multiple cores, too." He pointed out well-treaded MIPS multi-core experience among MIPS licensees such as Cavium and NetLogic.

MIPS customers have known, all along, about these MIPS advantages of, according to the MIPS CEO. But "the software eco-system challenge in the cell phone market was so huge" that nobody made an attempt to switch from ARM to MIPS—until now.

What changed?
Android opened the door for MIPS.

The smart phone segment is "an explosive area," said Vij. "Innovations made by Apple's iPhones are yet to be taken out to China, India, Brazil and others."

"Dynamism creates an opportunity," said Vij, openly hoping that MIPS has put itself into the right place at the right time to leap for it.

Since Vij became MIPS' CEO in January, he has spent a lot of time visiting customers, meeting executives at each company. Vij made no secret of his surprise in finding, firsthand, how ubiquitous Android has become, and how quickly it's taking off. "A tsunami of adoption [for Android] is out there," said Vij.

Vij offered four reasons why Android is picking up steam and moving beyond hype.

• Android is based on Linux. That's powerful.
• Android is codified and structured by Google, a strong brand that's here to stay for long time.
• Android offers a framework where apps run on top of Android, not on any specific hardware.
• Android is free.

Asked about MIPS' future strategy to displace ARM in the mobile handset market, soft-spoken MIPS CEO calmly said: "Business is a gentleman's game. Our focus is on the value we create for our customers, not on the competitors."

That said, Vij outlined four distinguished values MIPS offers its customers (compared to ARM):

• MIPS offers not just 32bit processor core but also 64bit.
• MIPS provides multi-threading, instead of single threading.
• MIPS offers both single-core and multi-core implementations.
• MIPS creates code compression with no penalty performance.

Asked about its roadmap, Vij noted that MIPS' investment is placed in enhancing the quality—rather than the quantity—of cores.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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