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With the opportunities presenting themselves in these new markets, almost every
semiconductor company has undergone multiple reorganizations while they try to keep
up with these changing markets. Today, in 1999, every semiconductor company, with
the exception of those focused on very niche markets, has completely remade itself in
order to go after these emerging markets. Also, as a result, two types of semiconductor
companies have emerged:
Semiconductor companies that have traceable, long term focused strategies with
strong customer relationships and established track records, and
Semiconductor companies that don't.
There is a notable symptom of the second "unfocused" group: the rapid introduction,
with fanfare, of new products, to then be quietly withdrawn within two years when their
wildly speculated internal sales projections aren't realized overnight. Obviously, then, it
is from the first group of focused Semiconductor companies that the majority of the
processor innovations are coming from, as they have the track record and the
experience to service customers in these emerging markets.
Performing Real-Time Control and Signal Processing in One Processor
A commonality found in many of the emerging deeply embedded markets is a need to
process some form of analog data, whether a communications stream or multimedia
information, while at the same time maintaining real-time control of external events. The
mixture of the two vary as widely as the diversity of the systems. On the one extreme, a
simple data acquisition system using an 8-bit microcontroller may need to perform
DTMF encoding/decoding and simulate a 1200 baud modem; on the other extreme, a
DSP in a voice compression application may want to change program flow based on
external switches and status signals.
At the same time, these systems are relentlessly striving for lower cost, smaller board
space, and less power dissipation, while integrating as much useful silicon as possible
on the die. The target, then, for semiconductor companies is to increase the amount of
useful work that is accomplished in every instruction clock cycle.
In cases where a mixture of both DSP and microcontroller functionality is needed, there
are four choices:
Microcontroller Signal Processor (MSP) ex: TriCore, SH-DSP
Both a Microcontroller and a DSP ex: ARM-Piccolo
Choices 1 & 2 are obviously the traditional approaches. Using a pure DSP such as a
Texas Instruments TMS320C54x to do control-oriented applications, or using a
conventional microcontroller such as an 80251 to do signal processing, is obviously an