STM and Oxford in FPGA bid

STM and Oxford in FPGA bid
Joint move targets embedding soft x86 macros in FPGAs. David Manners. SGS-Thomson Microelectronics and Oxford Semiconductor are reported to be preparing a move on the FPGA market which will offer programmable x86-based systems-on-a-chip. The target of the SGS-Thomson/ Oxford Semiconductor project is said to be embedding soft x86 macros in FPGAs. SGS-Thomson has a range of Cyrix-developed cores from the 486 class of machine up to Pentium and is developing Pentium II class cores at its subsidiary Metaflow. “That’s entirely possible,” was the response of the SGS-Thomson spokesperson when asked about the project, but offered no information about plans for commercialising the development. “That’s very possible,” responded Oxford Semiconductor, when asked by EW if it was embedding soft x86 macros in FPGAs for SGS-Thomson, but no more information was forthcoming. Embedding intellectual property (IP) in FPGAs has become an important differentiator between suppliers in the mainstream FPGA market, where acquiring access to a library of ready-made macros and processor cores has been a priority for the big players like Xilinx and Altera. Three years ago SGS-Thomson and Oxford University teamed up in a European programme – the Open Microprocessor Initiative – to develop a means to embed transputer cores in FPGAs. “We dropped out of that project because we weren’t interested in commercialising it but we’ve kept our eye on FPGAs,” said the SGS-Thomson spokesperson. SGS-Thomson has been involved in the programmable logic market for some years via a second source agreement with Lattice Semiconductor for its EEPROM and flash based GALs. But it has never been a big business for SGS-Thomson. However, FPGAs with embedded soft x86 macros offer customers a mini-Intel/Architecture programmable system-on-a-chip. With the worldwide programmable logic market now the fastest-growing segment of the semiconductor market and already topping $2bn, SGS-Thomson may have decided that now is the time to make a serious play.


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