Will a New DSP-based IP Subsystem Emerge from Rumors?
Two rumors about Qualcomm, Arteris, and DSP architectures lead to tantalizing speculation about a new type of DSP-based IP subsystem.
Rumors are tricky things – hard to prove but sometimes harder to disprove. Experience has taught me that the best way to judge technology-based rumors is by looking for convergence. Here’s a case in point: John Cooley at DeepChip has posted emails suggesting that Qualcomm may be engaged in an asset buy with network-on-a-chip (NoC) company Arteris.
This rumor must be weighed in the context of today’s semiconductor intellectual-property (IP) environment. It isn’t unusual for smaller companies to be acquired by larger ones – ostensibly for their IP. Conversely (or to encourage such an acquisition), smaller companies are licensing more and more of their in-house IP for external sales. Why? Kevin Kline from Freescale has noted that the value of the internal IP of a smaller company can be worth more than the market cap of the company itself.
But legal IP guru Jonathan Kaplan (see his latest blog) once told me that, in general, IP holdings are more valuable to smaller rather than very large companies. If that’s true, why would an IP giant like Qualcomm seek to acquire Arteris?
To answer that question, let’s consider another rumor that Qualcomm may license its digital-signal-processing (DSP) architecture. If this supposition proves accurate, the company will join a trend among other multicore-processor giants (e.g., IBM licensing Power CPU; nVidia licensing its GPUs; and Imaginations licensing MIPS).
Does Qualcomm’s rumored interest in Arteris – plus the rumor that Qualcomm may license its DSP architecture – provide evidence of a convergence? That is hard to tell, as we lack a legitimacy weighting for each rumor. Still, they do seem to point to a convergence. Acquiring Arteris’s chip-level interconnect IP might make it easier to integrate Qualcomm’s DSP IP with other non-company cores on a heterogeneous system-on-a-chip (SoC). This is only speculation, as Arteris’s competitors (e.g., Sonics) may disagree with the ease-of-integration assertion.
Still, if these two rumors are true (and that’s a big “if”), chip designers may see the emergence of a new DSP-based IP subsystem. Or so it’s rumored.