China startup rolls 'unified' Android processor

by Peter Clarke , TechOnline India - June 09, 2011

ICube, a two-year old fabless startup out of Shenzhen, China, backed by a publicly listed holding company in Hong Kong, is going after the Android mobile computing market using its own architecture of multicore processor.

ICube Corp., a two-year old fabless startup out of Shenzhen, China, backed by a publicly listed holding company in Hong Kong, is going after the Android mobile computing market using its own architecture of multicore processor.

The company claims its Harmony Unified Processor architecture is the first ever developed to handle both logic and graphics processing in a single core and in each of multiple processing pipelines.

ICube Corp., now a subsidiary of the recently renamed ICube Technology
Holdings Ltd., has received 65-nm silicon of the first instantiation of Harmony, the dual-core IC1, back from its foundry supplier. The companyis aiming at a 2012 roll out of samples and volume production.

Any attempt to introduce a novel instruction set architecture to compete against the broadly-supported ARM, x86 from Intel and others, is likely to be treated with skepticism by many. Objections are likely to be on commercial as much as on technical grounds. However, ICube claims that starting with a blank sheet of paper and specifically targeting the needs of mobile devices, has given it power-efficiency and cost-efficiency advantages over the established architectures. It also

claims that with the advent of Android the barriers to entry for a new architecture are much lower than they once were.

The executive credentials of the company suggest that it could at least have a chance of success. Chief technology officer Simon Moy has 20 years' experience having spent several years as a principal engineer with Nvidia Corp. where he worked on the hardware design of the vertex shaders and stream processors in several generations of GPUs. Prior to that Moy worked at Silicon Graphics, IBM and LSI Logic.

Chief scientist Fred Chow's expertise is on the compiler side where he has 30 years experience, having worked as principal engineer at MIPS, chief scientist at Silicon Graphics and director of compiler engineering at PathScale Inc.

"Developing our own intellectual property from the ground up has been a key differentiation of ICube from other technology companies in China," said Moy, in a statement. "This provides us with much greater areas for innovation, enables us to leverage the latest semiconductor trends and lowers the cost of our system-on-a-chip products relative to other chipmakers. We are also proud to have attracted and built a world-class development team composed of by Silicon Valley veterans and top engineering talents in China. We are confident that our revolutionary high technology product will be well received by the market and create value to our shareholders."

 

- More information on ICube and the Harmony Unified Processor architecture are due to appear in the next issue of EE Times Confidential. Further details of the China fabless chip company sector, including a database of company details can be found in the 'China Fabless Profile' report from EE Times. If you are interested in receiving the report, contact peter.clarke@ubm.com

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