Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pinching pennies

It’s an old trick in the semiconductor game, shrinking costs with silicon integration to compete taking products to mass market. Kudos to Atheros, SMSC and STMicro who gave examples in the last 24 hours of doing this with 802.11n, Bluetooth, USB 2.0 and WiMax.

Atheros presented papers yesterday at ISSCC on what it calls it’s the first 802.11n chip with baseband and radio on chip. It knows competit0ors are not far away with its part which should ship soon. Similarly it described its first Bluetooth 2.1 chip, and integrated part slightly smaller than the one from competitors such as Broadcom.

SMSC today shrinks its USB 2.0 transceiver to new size and power lows, hitting a sub-$1 cost for the first time. The company is talking just a little about nits views on the still-emerging USB 3.0, a topic I’d like to hear more about.

For its part, STM showed the first steps in research toward blending .11n and WiMax into an integrated chip suitable for a cellphone. The company has work to do yet before it pulls this one off, but it got plenty of attention at ISSCC for its efforts so far.

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