Chip design firm MIPS Technologies is announcing a new platform today that will make it easier to drive Google’s Android operating system into consumer electronics gear.
Hopefully, the move will make the web-connected consumer electronics market more competitive. MIPS designs a microprocessor that it licenses to other chip makers to build. Those chip makers create custom versions of the MIPS design and use them in chips for a wide variety of gadgets. MIPS-based chips have the No. 1 market share in digital TVs and set-top boxes. With its new SmartCE platform, MIPS is gathering together a variety of components and software that make it easy to build a cool gadget.
The platform, unveiled for the first time this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (the biggest tech extravaganza of the year), is being demonstrated by a number of licensees. The platform integrates Android, Adobe Flash platform for TV, Skype, the Home Jinni ConnecTV application (which brings search to internet content on the TV), social media and other applications. SmartCE will ensure that all of that software runs smoothly on MIPS-based digital TVs, set-top boxes, and Blu-ray players.
By doing this, MIPS hopes to hold off any encroachment on its turf by ARM’s newest processors and Intel’s Atom chips, which are designed for lower-power applications. Licensees using SmartCE include Sigma Designs, ViXS Systems, Silicon Integrated Systems, Trident Microsystems, Zoran, and others. Devices that use the licensee chips will be able to run YouTube, Netflix, Yahoo Movies, Facebook, Skype, and Adobe Flash content. Consumers will also be able to use smartphones and tablet computers as remote controls for their electronics gear.
The platform is particularly well suited for running Google TV applications, said Art Swift, vice president of marketing at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based MIPS. Google needs this kind of support to break into the TV software business and compete with the likes of Apple and others. MIPS’ newest licensee is MStar Semiconductor, which will use MIPS designs in its next-generation digital TV chips. MStar is the largest maker of chips for flat-panel TVs, according to market researcher DisplaySearch.
MIPS is a decades-old chip design company; its licensees ship more than 600 million MIPS-based chips a year. The company also announced this week that it has targeted its chips at the mobile phone market as well. The company is profitable and is growing revenues.