On December 17, 2001 Palm and Texas Instruments announced that Palm will base a set of next-generation handheld computers on TI's OMAP processor platform, which combines an ARM ARM9 microprocessor core with TI's 'C55xx DSP core. This announcement came as part of a agreement between the two companies that covers everything from collaboration on product development to joint marketing. Palm expects to introduce OMAP-based handheld computers in about one year.
Palm had previously announced that it was porting its operating system to ARM's family of ARM microprocessor cores; by choosing the OMAP platform, Palm is clearly signaling that it considers high-performance DSP applications a critical factor for the success of next-generation handheld computers. Although ARM processors power many of today's embedded DSP applications, e.g., portable digital audio players, these cores offer limited signal processing speed. Consider the two cores in the OMAP platform: according to BDTI's analysis, a 200 MHz 'C55xx is over three times faster than a 200 MHz ARM9 on DSP tasks.
The agreement between Palm and TI demonstrates the effectiveness of TI's savvy diversification strategy. In the early days, TI's DSP efforts, like those of its competitors, focused almost exclusively on telecommunication applications. Over time, TI broadened its scope to markets such as hard disk drive servo controllers and digital cameras. Many other DSP vendors have remained narrowly focused or have met less success in new markets.
TI's approach to handheld computing is in keeping with a strategy of diversification: in addition to its agreement with Palm, TI has announced that its OMAP platform will support Microsoft's Windows CE and the Linux operating system. As signal processing becomes ever more pervasive, DSP vendors would do well to emulate TI's diversification strategy.