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Oak Technology Unveils Quatro™ System-On-A-Chip Platform

16 Oct, 2001

Oak Technology Unveils Quatro™ System-On-A-Chip Platform

Oak Technology (Nasdaq: OAKT - news), a provider of embedded solutions for optical storage and digital imaging markets, announced a new system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture that combines an ARM® CPU core with Oak's image processing DSP core to create a programmable solution for emerging consumer imaging and printing applications.

Oak plans to use the new Quatro(TM) architecture as a platform for developing a series of application-specific SoC solutions targeted at high-volume consumer devices that require high-performance, cost-efficient image or video processing capability. The first application-specific SoC to be released using Oak's new Quatro architecture targets personal printing appliances that enable image-rich content such as digital photos, web pages, and scanned documents to be captured, stored, navigated, viewed, transmitted and printed with or without using a PC. The personal printing appliance categories that can benefit from this new integrated controller solution include emerging Internet and photo appliance printers as well as more established multifunction peripherals.

Today's personal imaging and printing markets are undergoing a major shift from PC-centric imaging and printing to PC-independent imaging and printing, fueled by recent developments in digital photography, photo-quality printing, and home broadband connectivity. Oak's market forecast for PC-independent imaging devices, based on market research firm IDC's worldwide forecasts for related devices (digital cameras and imaging enabled smart handhelds) is expected to grow to nearly 44 million units by 2004, up from 11 million in 2000. Oak's market forecast for PC-independent printing devices, including popular multifunction peripherals, is expected to grow to over 25 million units by 2004, up from 8 million in 2000. This forecast is based on IDC's worldwide forecasts for related devices (Internet TV inkjet printers, direct connect photo printers, inkjet MFPs and low-end monochrome laser MFPs [1-20ppm]) that have one or more PC-less functions.

Embedding the image processing capabilities traditionally performed by the powerful CPU in a PC into low-cost appliance-type devices requires a new class of powerful, integrated SoC solutions. To deliver the required imaging performance the Quatro architecture incorporates Oak's powerful DSP core. Designed specifically for image processing, the Quatro DSP core provides superior performance over conventional DSP cores in image processing applications. The fully programmable Quatro architecture provides OEMs with all the advantages of a software-based design and allows them to avoid the time-consuming process of design a custom ASIC without sacrificing performance. The architecture is a strategic development platform -- a set of building blocks that can be leveraged to address multiple target markets with the foundation elements of consumer product design: performance, ease of configurability, and cost-efficiency. The Quatro architecture will enable a new generation of programmable, application-specific SoC solutions to reduce time-to-market by eliminating the need for the time-consuming and expensive ASIC-based controller alternatives. The software-based development environment also provides designers greater flexibility to add new features and integrate their own IP, and allows a single controller design to be used for multiple products.

``Oak's approach of using a specialized DSP core optimized for image processing combined with the ARM9E(TM) core will provide a versatile and powerful solution for consumer printing and imaging applications,'' said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, a market research firm specializing in DSP and multimedia applications. ``Other markets have already taken advantage of the benefits of integrated DSP technology. Quatro promises to bring the same benefits to the personal imaging and printing markets.''

Oak's Quatro Platform Architecture

Quatro is a scalable, extensible architecture for constructing programmable SoC solutions for imaging and printing devices. Four key elements comprise Quatro's extensible SoC architecture:

1. ARM9E CPU core, one of the industry's most widely adopted embedded processor cores, combines the open architecture of the ARM technology with the high performance and efficient footprint needed for today's embedded applications. 2. Oak's DSP technology core for programmable high-performance image processing, which employs a single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) parallel processing design to quadruple the image processing performance of conventional DSPs 3. An industry standard internal bus to enable Oak to seamlessly add extra processing modules and connectivity modules required for specific applications 4. An integrated C-based programming model closely coupled with the C-programming tools available for the ARM architecture, to enable OEMs to easily access the combined power of Quatro's CPU and DSP.

Together these four elements form a unified platform that Oak will use to provide OEMs with a series of programmable SoC solutions that all share the same programming model. Under this programming model, system functions and image processing control loops are programmed to run on the ARM9E core for the greatest flexibility. Inner loops for image processing algorithms run on the DSP for highest performance, but still with flexibility. Selected standards-based functions, such as image compression and decompression, are implemented as hardware modules to ensure that processing bandwidth in the CPU and DSP are reserved for functions that require flexibility.

SIMD DSP Core Optimized for Imaging

Oak's unique DSP core optimized for image processing differentiates the Quatro platform architecture from other SoC architectures. Other SoC solutions based on a CPU plus DSP, such as those targeted for cell phones and audio applications, rely on conventional DSP cores and do not have the processing power required for imaging appliances. Processing a page from a document scanner for output on a color printer, for example, typically requires that a 30-million pixel image be processed in just 8 seconds, which translates to about four million pixels per second. Conventional DSP cores, which typically perform one multiplication and one addition per clock cycle, are under-powered for imaging and printing applications. The DSP core in Oak's Quatro architecture uses a SIMD parallel processing design to perform four multiplication and four addition functions per clock cycle, achieving four times the image processing performance of conventional DSPs.

Oak is a pioneer in applying SIMD parallel processing techniques into the imaging and printing markets. The Quatro DSP core's SIMD design enables the programmer to easily take advantage of the parallelism inherent in image and video data. It allows image data to be easily divided into symmetric pieces (typically columns) to be efficiently processed in parallel. The Quatro DSP core builds upon the proven technology of Oak's recently announced PM-44ix iDSP image processor.

Comprehensive Programming Tools

Oak provides an extensive library of optimized image processing algorithms, and has developed a C-based programming environment that allows developers to write the majority of the custom programming in C, a widely used high-level programming language. Oak will provide OEMs with a full set of tools and libraries for programming the DSP core. These tools will be integrated with the CPU development tools provided by ARM, leveraging the ARM Developer Suite(TM) which is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive tool sets for embedded systems programming. OEMs who adopt multiple Quatro-based SoC solutions will be able to achieve a high degree of reuse across Quatro-based SoCs, leveraging additional design economy of scale and extensibility.

``The Quatro architecture represents a landmark initiative that sets a new standard in controller design,'' said Simon Dolan, vice president and general manager, Oak Technology Imaging Group (OIG). ``The Quatro platform will enable us to provide our OEM customers with a new class of extremely attractive, eye-opening products that couple the power of the ARM9E core with our widely adopted, market-proven imaging DSP cores and compression technologies.

``For our OEM customers, Quatro offers a new concept in controller architecture -- a fully programmable SoC platform that enables them to achieve the significant time-to-market advantages of software-based design without sacrificing the price/performance of custom ASIC design,'' Dolan continued.


The initial target application for the Quatro architecture platform is the personal printing and imaging market. Oak's first SoC for this market is planned for sampling to early access partners in first quarter 2002, with general sampling targeted for second quarter 2002. Quatro simulation software is available now.

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