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February 22, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

Samsung Semiconductor Inc claims it has developed the first integrated system chip, combining processor, memory and modem functionality on a single ASIC (application specific integrated circuit). The San Jose, California-based semiconductor company said yesterday it has licensed the ARM9 family of processors (specifically the ARM9TDMI and ARM920T chip sets) and integrated them with its own Memory Merged Logic (MML) and mixed-signal technologies. Samsung says it will use the system-on-a-chip (SOC) to expand its opportunities in the mobile communications market; marketing the solution to, among others, PDA (personal digital assistant), smartphone and set-top box vendors. Integrating key processing, memory and signal processing functionalities on one chip provides multiple benefits, says Samsung’s director of ASIC marketing, Farzad Zarrinfar. It reduces the chip’s power consumption and dramatically increases the bandwidth between the system components, which means quicker downloading and processing of information. By embedding the processor and the DRAM together we can achieve a bandwidth of over 17 gigabytes per second, which will make tasks like web browsing a lot smoother and faster, he said. Samsung isn’t the only chip manufacturer making noises about system-on-a-chip products. IBM Corp also reckons it has developed a world first integrated ASIC, which it also plans to market and sell in the mobile telecoms devices space. Reynette Au, VP worldwide marketing for ARM, says it doesn’t so much matter who developed the technology first as who will get the chips into products fastest. It’s a race to see who’s going to get production quality parts out, Reynette said. There are lots of other manufacturers touting the capability, but Samsung seems to be the furthest along the road in terms of getting product to market. Furthermore, Reynette added the key wasn’t just to produce products quickly but to do so in a fashion that delivers the kind of SOC that hits a particular product at a specific price point. As well as announcing its SOC, Samsung also said it had joined the ARM consortium for the Microsoft Windows CE operating system, designed to optimize development of CE-based mobile devices based on ARM technology. Samsung said it will work with the consortium to develop solutions using the ARM920T chipset and any device will be able to support the latest edition of Windows CE platform builder version 2.11.

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