Arm, NEC to develop multiprocessor core

Processor core designer Arm Ltd. and NEC Electronics Corp. have signed an agreement to develop a multiprocessor core for multimedia devices and mobile handsets, the companies announced Monday.

The companies will marry NEC’s multiprocessing technology with the ARM11 processor core to enable designers to develop handsets, set-top boxes, and multimedia devices that can take advantage of cores with multiple processing units, said John Rayfield, vice-president of marketing for Arm in the U.S. Arm is based in Cambridge, UK.

Arm doesn’t manufacture processors; it designs the central processing units, also known as cores, that chip vendors license and build into a working processor with memory buses and I/O connections.

Arm licensees have used the company’s designs in processors with multiple cores, but this would be the first time Arm has developed a core with multiple processing units, Rayfield said.

The new cores will wind up in digital televisions, wireless media gateways, and other devices in the digital home or automobile, Rayfield said. Arm’s traditional customers, cell phone and personal digital assistant chip makers, will also be able to take advantage of the cores, he said.

A core with multiple processing units will increase the performance of multimedia applications such as streaming video, Rayfield said. It also helps the processor conserve power by having multiple units working on smaller jobs, as opposed to one large unit processing every job, he said.

By partnering with NEC, Arm also will expand its presence in the Japanese consumer electronics market, Rayfield said. The first products developed under the agreement will start to appear in about 12 to 18 months, he said.

Other companies are also developing plans to improve the performance of mobile video and audio. Intel Corp. and Sony Electronics Inc. announced a partnership under which Sony’s content will be optimized for the next-generation of Intel’s XScale technology for personal digital assistants and cell phones.