Imagination preps three-tier Meta processor roadmap

TechOnline India - August 05, 2009

Graphics core licensor Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England) is making a push to persuade chip companies to license its Meta multithreading processor as a housekeeping and operating system host in system-chips for multimedia devices.

LONDON — Graphics core licensor Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England) is making a push to persuade chip companies to license its Meta multithreading processor as a housekeeping and operating system host in system-chips for multimedia devices.

Imagination has had Meta processor cores on its books for most of this decade and had a processor core running Linux since 2003, but is best known for the success achieved with its PowerVR series of graphics and video cores. However, the rising significance of Linux and the Linux-based Android could mean that Meta's time has come, according to the company.

The push behind Meta includes a Meta-3 instruction set architecture in planning and a renewed roadmap that will see the Meta line of four-way multithreaded processor cores being divided into three strands.

At the top in terms of performance is the HTP line including the HTP220, 225 and 265 cores. Coming soon, is the middle-tier of Meta MTP cores including the 220 and 260. And at some point further out come the low-end Meta LTP single-threaded cores.

Publicly-held Imagination has a long list of leading chip companies as licensees, mainly for its PowerVR series of graphics and video processing cores. Imagination has also enjoyed some success with its Ensigma range of digital audio and digital TV cores and many of its licensees have taken a meta license as a controller for one of these cores.

Earlier this decade Imagination's graphics cores were introduced to prospective chip company licensees by ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) who touted the benefits of an ARM processor core plus PowerVR graphics core. In June 2006 ARM announced that it had acquired Falanx Microsystems AS (Trondheim, Norway), a developer of graphics processor cores, and that it would be dropping its cooperation with Imagination. {pagebreak}"If you see what we are offering is actually what you need in a modern SOC — communications, graphics and a CPU. We have a road-map to a more complete solution. Meta runs Linux and we are looking to bring Android onboard," said Tony King-Smith, vice president of marketing, at Imagination.

The Meta HTP line is aimed at the high-end and distinguished by a full processor offering including caches and memory management units. The MTP range is for more embedded applications built around particular applications while the LTP is for low-end microcontrol applications, while providing code compatibility. The similarity to the A,R,M trifurcation of the Cortex processor cores by ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) is striking.

All the Meta HTP, MTP and LTP cores are based on the Meta2 architecture and well suited to 65-nm and smaller geometries, said King-Smith. "The HTP cores are capable of running at 400-MHz clock frequency in a 65-nm low-power process and at 700-MHz in a 65-nm general-purpose process," he said.

"The Meta-3 architecture is in planning. We plan to bring it in at 32-nm or 28-nm in a couple of years," King-Smith said.

King-Smith pointed out that multi-threading as well as a mix of multi-threading and multiprocessing have become popular recently even though Imagination has been doing this for many years. "For general purposes two to four threads is still a nice balance, although there is nothing to stop us going beyond that architecturally."

Related links and articles:

www.imgtec.com

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Imagination sales, profits up as PowerVR pays off

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