Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hard(ware) times at Microsoft

I sat in on a panel discussion at the ARM Developers Conference yesterday and was blown away to hear a Microsoft executive suggest the company is doing about everything in silicon short of setting up a fab on the Redmond campus these days. Apparently, the Windows giant is seeing more and more hardware areas where it wants to play, in addition to the Xbox, Zune and its keyboard and mouse business. With more than its share of the profits of the computer industry at its command, it has the wherewithal to go after new hardware opportunities.

Thus Microsoft is now co-developing some form of media chip with a fables company because it could not get what it wanted in the merchant market. It is also investigating silicon opportunities in digital cameras, even as it helps drive the next generation JPEG XR standard forward.

In a sign of how serious the Microsoft silicon drive is the exec said "we are looking for [chip-level] tools to handle global resource contention and various kinds of bus and core interconnect architectures" for asymmetric embedded multi-core processors.

Microsoft may not be as far down the curve on system-on-chip design as ARM and the rest of the semiconductor industry, but I don't doubt they have the bucks, people and guts to drive fresh directions. The company's work with the Berkeley RAMP system may be a bellwether for things to come. Stay tuned.

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