An Elephant on a Diet

Posted by  04 October 2010

I was recently reminded of Jen-Hsun Huang’s comments on the Atom processor’s prospects for use in mobile applications.  As reported in Laptop Magazine, Jen-Hsun said, “You could give an elephant a diet, but it’s still an elephant.”  Although Jen-Hsun was commenting on the prospects for Intel’s Moorestown version of Atom in mobile SOCs, the same comments apply to most embedded applications where Paul Otellini, Intel’s CEO, has recently said Moorestown will play.

Take Smart TVs for instance, where Intel has been pushing the Atom-based CE4100 as the future of the connected TV.  Although touted as cost-effective and low power, the Atom CPU used in the 4100 is fully 3 times larger in terms of silicon real estate versus MIPS’ latest fully synthesizable high end core—the 1074K Coherent Processing System (CPS).  And the 1074K delivers nearly 2.5x the performance compared to Atom. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that for this application, Intel, the perceived processor ‘King’, actually provides less performance per square millimeter of silicon, or per miliwatt of power, than MIPS.

The extra overhead associated with using the Atom processor in a connected TV environment – extra memory, higher cooling costs, and of course the dreaded Intel gross margin tax, make it prohibitively expensive for anything but very high-end (read expensive) consumer devices.  We believe that the high volume, connected TV market will continue to be led by the many MIPS licensees who are developing MIPS-based SOCs specifically targeted at the needs of this market.

Although I have tremendous personal respect for Intel’s design and manufacturing prowess, even its recent IDF announcements don’t change my perspective that the best performing, most efficient, most cost-effective connected consumer SOCs will continue to come from MIPS’ licensees.

We’ll be talking more about this topic in a forthcoming update of our “Preparing for Google TV” whitepaper.


Last modified on Monday, 04 October 2010 12:23

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