MIPS Technologies Updates Processor IP Lineup with Aptiv Seriesby Ganesh T S on May 10, 2012 8:55 AM EST
MIPS launched the 1074K CPS in September 2010, and till now, we have seen only one announcement regarding the processor core actually having gone into silicon. Plenty of companies seem to have licensed the IP, but we haven't seen any SoCs announced with the 1074K. eSilicon announced last year that they had taped out the 1074K CPS in Globalfoundries 28nm process, and that they are on the lookout for potential licensees of their hardened IP core. It is clear that at least two years seem to be the bare minimum for volume shipment of announced IP cores. ARM is in the same boat, with the Cortex-A15 being a known entity as far back as February 2011.
Given that the high end proAptiv core delivers performance similar to the Cortex-A15, it appears that MIPS is a little bit late to the game. Being late to the game and not delivering any advantage would have been a disaster. Fortunately, MIPS seems to have been frugal with the area compared to ARM. However, the lack of licensees using the cores in the family to make a push in the high end mobile space is also a detriment. While Qualcomm and Broadcom are MIPS licensees, they are fully committed to ARM as their architecture of choice in the fast-growing mobile space.
Despite the fact that Google is paying attention to MIPS as a platform for Android, it looks likely that the architecture of choice in the mobile / tablet space will become a two way shootout between ARM and x86. That said, the easiest way to lose a fight is to not turn up for it. MIPS must continue to create high performance cores and try to get into mid-range smartphones / tablets for a start. They have a foothold in the low-end space, thanks to Ingenic's tablet platform.
However, the new proAptiv series does have some bright spots for consumers. One can look forward to more powerful home networking equipment and set top boxes. The cores serve to ensure that ARM can't easily encroach upon MIPS's traditional turf. Changing consumer behaviour and the rising popularity of OTT streaming has given ARM a slight opening in the STB / STB replacement space. The new proAptiv cores will definitely be able to help MIPS in this area.
Fortunately, for MIPS, the interAptiv and microAptiv family members seem to hold the upper hand in the battle against ARM's lineup. In the interAptiv series, MIPS has stolen a march over ARM with respect to the multi-threading feature. The integration of a powerful DSP engine in the microAptiv series should open up new markets and strengthen MIPS's position in its current ones.
General production availability of the proAptiv and interAptiv cores is slated to be in the middle of 2012. The microAptiv cores are available for production now. MIPS has also developed strategic relationships with multiple vendors for complementary IP and enabling technologies in order to speed up the SoC development of their licensees.
We look forward to seeing silicon based on the MIPS processor IP cores soon.