Rockwell International Inc’s avionics and communications unit, Rockwell Collins Inc has become the latest player to enter the Java processor market, by using Sun Microsystems Inc’s picoJava processor specification. The company licensed the picoJava Java chip specification from Sun in March, completed the porting work and now has Java on silicon in the form of a 32-bit core called JEM1, which is six millimeters square in 0.5 micron CMOS. Rockwell also says it has a cross-licensing agreement with Sun and gave Sun some unspecified proprietary technology it needed for its chips in other areas, in exchange for picoJava and the exclusive rights to Java within the avionics industry. Sun Microeletronics (SME) says it has right to the JEM1 but would not comment on whethrer it would be taking the chip back for its own use. But SME did say the agreement with Rockwell was different from normal liecnsing deal, because in addition to the license fees and royalties, Sun has a technology transfer option as well. The chip came out of Rockwell’s Advanced Architecture Microprocessor (AAMP) series, of which there have been at least six versions over the last 12 or so years. The chip is designed using a stack, rather than register-based architecture, as Rockwell engineers discovered about a year ago that stack-architect chips are ideally suited to the need of software virtual machines – far more so they say than register architectures. Rockwell’s plans for the JEM1 are still fluid at the moment, although Gene Schwarting, director of strategic management for Collins General aviation division says the company is leaning in favor of reducing JEM1’s size and getting another version out before bringing anything to market, either to sell or to license. But he says the level of outside interest may determine the company’s action. He also says that the plans dont stop at Java – any virtual machine could be adopted. Although Rockwell claims a first, tiny outfit Patriot Scientific Corp says it will beat all-comers as it will be showing its processor, the PSC1000 on Monday at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. It says it will prove how fast it runs and should announce some licensees. Rockwell is approaching Java from a different end of the computing spectrum to the likes of Sun. Rockwell’s aim, says Schwarting, was not to get a chip that was necessarily super-fact – the JEM1 only clocks at about 60MHz right now but could be stretch to 100MHz in the current form – but to make one that generated very little heat, because heat is the enemy of reliability, he says. That’s because Rockwell is concentrating, for the moment at least on the microcontroller core in telecommunication and navigation systems, rather than single processor devices such as network computers, although Schwarting would not rule out that possibility for the future.
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