National boss eyes PC-on-a-chip

National boss eyes PC-on-a-chip
David Manners On Monday (April 6) National Semiconductor’s president and CEO, Brian Halla, said that the company would reduce the chip count of PCs from 12 to one by mid-1999, making possible the sub-$500 PC. “National has assembled, through acquisition and internal development, all the pieces it needs to integrate a PC on a single chip,” Halla told the Semico Summit semiconductor conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The acquisitions are: Cyrix for processor cores, Gulbransen for audio compression, FIS for graphics, Mediamatics for MPEG, and PicoPower for system logic. The co-ordinated chip is being designed at National’s design centre in Herzlia, Israel. The chip will contain all the PC functions – processor, I/O, graphics, video decompression, power management, network and audio, leaving only memory and high-voltage to be performed off-chip. Rival SGS-Thomson responded: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Metaflow (a US company controlled by SGS) is targeting exactly the same application except that we’ve got the high voltage parts and the memory as well.” Both companies have been using Cyrix-developed microprocessor cores to develop system-level chips. SGS-Thomson will move on to use Metaflow for its Pentium II-class cores. Metaflow is also said to be working on ways to mimic Intel’s proprietary Slot 1 processor interface so allowing it to be pin-for-pin compatible with Intel Pentium II processors. “We will offer it to customers if they want it in a particular application,” said an SGS-Thomson spokesman, “but we’re not competing head-to-head with Intel.” Halla sees the single-chip PC as powering other appliances than just PCs. These include set-top boxes, DVDs, flat panels and electronic systems in cars.


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