Ericsson and Texas Instruments have announced that they would co-develop custom 3G silicon for mobile phones in a bid to get better high-end and mid-range devices to market quicker.
Ericsson’s radio chips, including its modem and RF products, would be integrated with TI’s mobile data chips, specifically its OMAP processor line, which supports Linux, Microsoft and Symbian operating systems.
The upshot, according to the companies, would be reduced design time and lower costs for OEMs, which it would sell one pre-verified and tested platform reference design. The savings to OEMs are expected to be significant.
For users, the deal promises better performance and power management, as well as smaller size components in Internet-based and multimedia mobile phones.
TI and Ericsson’s integrated chips would first appear in mobile phones during the second half of next year, they said.
TI has been an Ericsson customer for about 20 years already. But the deal marks the first time Ericsson would use TI’s application chips.
Potentially a shrewd move by TI, which currently is the world’s biggest maker of cell-phone chips but also is facing increasingly stiff competition from Qualcomm. Of course, if TI and Ericsson don’t execute on the promise of a single, clean reference design then the deal will do little to keep Qualcomm at bay.
Moreover, the deal shows how the semiconductor industry is increasingly moving toward platforms of products, whereby various chips are bundled and sold together. Intel’s chief executive Paul Otellini dubbed this trend as platformization. AMD, Qualcomm and Infineon have taken similar approaches.
As chip geometries continue to shrink and become more complicated, designing device components has become more expensive, so offering platforms to OEMs makes sense. However, it also means buying from fewer suppliers and, potentially, squeezing out the smaller, niche players.