New Chip Promises Smooth Mobile Video

Broadband and other high speed connection services promise to greatly enhance the quality of video on mobile devices, but transmission speed is not the only factor.

Today, IBM and Rapport, a Silicon Valley startup, previewed what they’re hailing as a “breakthrough energy-efficient processor design” that will be able to stream live and high-definition video on mobile devices five to 10 times the speed of existing processors.

The chip startup already offers the KC256, which has 256 processing elements, and provides more than 25 gigabyte operations/second under a single watt of power.

These Kilicore chips can be dynamically reconfigured for compute-intensive applications, including mobile gaming, homeland security, server components, image processing, consumer electronics and what Rapport referred to as “suitcase supercomputing.”

The forthcoming Kilocore1025 processor, based on both Rapport’s technology as well as IBM’s Power architecture, isn’t slated for availability until early next year. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company planned to publicly release details today at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, Calif.

As for products based on Rapport’s chips, “2007 isn’t too early to expect products based on our KC256,” Debby Hindus, VP of product marketing and co-founder of Rapport, told “Products based on our 1025 will take a longer to come out.”

Rapport said its Kilocore-based processors address the shortcomings of conventional chips by putting hundreds or thousands of parallel processing elements together on small chips.

The Kilocore1025 has 1024 eight-bit processing elements together with a PowerPC core on a single, low-cost chip. Rapport said it offers tools and a development platform.

Analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 said software support will be key to Kilocore’s success. “Software is always a huge problem,” said Brookwood. “Hopefully, Rapport has a bunch of ISVs  lined up or it will be an interesting chip all dressed up with no where to go.”

Rapport offers a software toolkit for developers and is building a library of applications. “It will take a while to build a large community of developers, but being part of gets us in touch with the people and companies we need,” said Hindus. Rapport’s president Frank Sinton added, “We want to mobilize the PowerPC.”

Sinton said Rapport is already in discussions with some of the largest handset makers about using the Kilocore1025 in future designs.

IBM plans to provide chip designer Rapport with engineering services, foundry and ASIC technologies.

“IBM developed the Cell Broadband Engine with Sony and Toshiba,” said IBM executive Nigel Beck, who also serves as Chairman of “With new collaborative efforts with members like Rapport and others, we’re going to see future ‘Cells’ emerge.”

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