ARM launches digital-music product

UK chip designer aims to speed up development of SD Cards for digital audio and video players
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

UK chip designer ARM Holdings is getting into the music business with a new line of Secure Digital Audio product solutions.

The first solution, announced on Wednesday, is for the development of SD Card-based system-on-chip devices that are designed using ARM's SD Card PrimeCell peripheral designed methodology.

The SD Card is a postage-stamp-sized, flash-memory device that is used for storage and to host applications such as music players or wireless communicators. It is an emerging platform but is already used in portable devices such as MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders and newer Palm Computing personal digital assistants (PDAs).

SD Cards, and the competing Sony Memory Stick, are particularly key to the growing market for digital audio, since they are built with copy-protection in mind.

"The kinds of uses we've talked about now include portable MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones, but the good thing about SD cards is it's an evolving technology," said John Slater, ARM Primecell product manager. "As the memory size of these cards gets bigger and bigger, you can start to think about putting video on a card."

ARM has already established itself as the leading provider of 16- and 32-bit embedded processor technology for devices like mobile phones and PDAs, and is rapidly expanding into other markets, including audio and video. Chip manufacturers rely on ARM designs because it is cheaper than designing the technology themselves, and allows them to bring products to market more quickly.

The company is taking the same approach with the new SD Card technology. ARM's Primecell components are designed be interoperable, allowing chip makers to quickly assemble system-on-chip designs. They comply with ARM's AMBA on-chip interface standard, allowing them to interoperate with AMBA-compliant components from other manufacturers.

"Anybody producing AMBA-based SoC solutions will have minimal problems," said Slater.

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