FXI and Atmel Create World's First microSD Gaming-Console for Mobile Phones

SiliconCity(R) Flexible Architecture offers easy migration from CAP(R) to a custom ARM-based SoC

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Atmel(R) Corporation (NASDAQ: ATML) today announced that the world's first cross-platform mobile phone gaming consoles will be implemented in microSD cards, based on a system-on-chip (SoC) developed by FXI Technologies AS using Atmel's 90nm SiliconCity Flexible Architecture.

When embedded in a microSD card, the FXI die can turn slot-enabled, hand-held devices into high-end "console gaming" platforms. The FXI SoC integrates a 3-D graphics accelerator, interface logic and ARM9(TM) processor that can be seamlessly coupled to the manufacturer's traditional flash memory. Video games played on an FXI-enabled microSD Card allow card vendors and others to offer an extremely compelling gaming experience. MicroSD card-based gaming consoles will be marketed by SD card vendors and gaming content providers, among others, and can be used in virtually any device with a microSD slot, irrespective of its manufacturer or the native application processor.

According to Tom Hackenberg, Senior Analyst at IMS Research, "Annual shipments of mobile handsets that will include MicroSD card slots are expected to reach over 500 million units by mid 2010. Add to this display enhancements, storage increases, video compression and the proliferation of mobile applications and you have a recipe for disruptive technologies, as MicroSD does for handsets, what CDs did for computers."

Isaac van Kempen, FXI's CEO said, "Traditionally, cell phone games have been limited to downloading games that use the same processor engine already in the device. MicroSD cards with FXI's die will include everything - the graphics accelerator, interface logic and high end ARM9 processor within the same microSD that stores gaming and other applications. It will vastly upgrade cell phone performance, while providing consumers a console-class gaming experience."

"Atmel's SiliconCity Flexible Architecture has allowed us to build and package this functionality in a SoC with superior cost, power and performance advantages, but without the expense and long lead-times of a traditional custom ASIC. In addition, since Atmel's SiliconCity Flexible Architecture uses a standardized CAP9 design flow, the CAP9 development kits can be used as a game development platform. In fact, we are distributing the CAP9 board to game publishers and developers, so they can develop their software months before we have the microSD card silicon," van Kempen added.

"Atmel's customizable CAP9 platform and kits for software development and IP creation combined with the Atmel's proven ARM-based IP and Flexible Architecture allows us to create a custom product for a new market segment in half the time," commented Isaac van Kempen, CEO of FXI. "If we had started from scratch without the CAP9 platform, we would be looking at a year-plus development cycle. As a start-up in fund-raising mode, the cost-savings to alternative paths has also provided FXI with key advantages," concluded van Kempen. Atmel's 90 nm SiliconCity Flexible Architecture is an extension of Atmel's CAP customizable MCU products. Based on Atmel's Metal-Programmable Cell Fabric (MPCF), Flexible Architecture provides up to 350K gates/mm2, comparable to the gate densities traditional standard cell ASICs, without the high NREs and lead times. The design flow is identical to that of a CAP device, with the exception that the OEM defines the processor and on-chip bus subsystems, memories and peripherals. In the case of CAP customizable MCUs, Atmel defines the platform, leaving a metal programmable block for customization.

Jay Johnson, Atmel's Director of CAP marketing said, "The Silicon City Flexible Architecture gives OEMs like FXI the freedom to create their own unique base wafer architecture for multiple product variations while generously reducing customer design time, lowering the NRE and reducing risk through design reuse. Creating a traditional ASIC for these FXI products is too costly and time consuming. Unlike an ASIC, game developers for the FXI cards will have a development platform that will be good across all cell phones with microSD slots, without having to wait months for silicon."

MPCF offers a smaller core cell with better routing. The key to the MPCF technology is a 6- transistor core cell that is less than 3.2 square microns. In the 90 nm process, a SiliconCity Flexible Architecture ASIC yields between 300,000 and 350,000 gates per square millimeter. A novel routing scheme provides two layers of metal for interconnect, increasing gate utilization up to 90%. The combination of the higher gate density and better routability of MPCF-based SoC results in die sizes that are about half those of previous 130 nm generations.

Routing & Transistor Geometry Alignment. With MPCF, the cell size is matched perfectly to the integer multiple of the routing grid and transistor pitch, which results in no wasted silicon. In addition, contacts and vias are also the same size as metal trace, which eliminates any potential overlap and provides the most effective vertical use of silicon in the design. These aspects of MPCF make targeting the exact gate size required for the design much easier and more cost effective than the typical sea-of-gates architecture common with gate arrays and some early structured ASIC products.

In addition, MPCF metal-programmable cells and standard cells can be placed in separate regions on the die or freely mixed without any die size penalty. Therefore the fixed platform part of the design can be implemented in standard cell technology, while the flexible portion of the die with MPCF for quick derivative spins.

Easy Migration from Existing Processor-plus-FPGA Designs. Many existing designs based on an industry standard microcontroller and an FPGA may be directly migrated to a SiliconCity Flexible ASIC in as little as 20 weeks from final gate-level netlist with minimal re-engineering and low initial NRE mask charges. Future iterations of designs can be implemented in just 8-12 weeks with even lower single metal mask NRE charges.

Using the CAP9, Atmel's ARM-based customizable microcontroller, FXI will perform hardware validation and simultaneous software development, so that game publishers can create compelling content in parallel with FXI's chip development while providing a seamless migration to the final product.

"CAP to ASIC migration is the key to creating custom developments for faster time to market," said Jay Johnson, Marketing Director for Atmel's NA ASIC Business. "That's the real value of SiliconCity Flexible Architecture: helping customers create innovative market solutions faster and more cost effectively. FXI's end product will have a disruptive affect on the way consumers' view handheld gaming."

The architecture relies on the breadth of Atmel's standard microcontroller solutions to create SoCs including the reusability and proven IP that Atmel offers through its AVR(R) and AT91SAM standard products. It also offers a migration path from industry standard microcontrollers to CAP and ASIC designs.

Availability and Photo

Products based on the 90nm SiliconCity Flexible Architecture are available now. FXI's OEM product will be available in 2010.

To download a high-resolution of the CAP9 board, please click the following link: http://www.atmel.com/press/photos/CAP9_board.jpg.

About FXI

FXI is an OEM supplier of the world's first SOC die targeted to the ubiquitous microSD card format bringing robust application acceleration and console-class gaming to the broadest spectrum of cell phones. FXI Technologies AS headquarters are in Norway and the company has operations in Oslo, Norway and Fremont, California.

About Atmel

Atmel is a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of microcontrollers, advanced logic, mixed-signal, nonvolatile memory and radio frequency (RF) components. Leveraging one of the industry's broadest intellectual property (IP) technology portfolios, Atmel is able to provide the electronics industry with complete system solutions focused on consumer, industrial, security, communications, computing and automotive markets.

(C) 2009 Atmel Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Atmel(R), Atmel logo and combinations thereof, SiliconCity(R), CAP(R), AVR(R) and others, are registered trademarks, or trademarks of Atmel Corporation or its subsidiaries. ARM(R) is a registered trademark of ARM Ltd. Other terms and product names may be trademarks of others.


Atmel's SiliconCity Flexible Architecture information may be retrieved at: http://www.atmel.com/products/asic/architecture.asp?family_id=615


Clive Over, Public Relations Director Tel: (+1) 408 436-4305, Email: Email Contact

Web site: http://www.atmel.com/

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