On June 18th, Agere, Motorola, and Infineon announced that they would be teaming up to form a new company, StarCore LLC. StarCore LLC will be based on the earlier Agere/Motorola joint design center, StarCore, but with some notable differences. One difference is that, unlike the earlier alliance, StarCore LLC will be a distinct business entity separate from its parent companies. All three partners will have equal ownership in the new company, which will be headquartered in Austin, Texas. The partners expect the company to commence operations in late summer of 2002, subject to regulatory approval.
StarCore LLC's charter is to develop DSP cores and license them to semiconductor vendors and OEMs. This is a business model with which Infineon already has experience, having developed the Carmel DSP core and then offered it to potential licensees. It's a big change for StarCore, however; the DSP cores developed as part of the original StarCore partnership were intended to be used only by Agere and Motorola in their own products and were not available for license by others. Not surprisingly, Agere, Motorola, and Infineon will be the initial core licensees, providing a built-in market for the new company's products.
The StarCore alliance was formed in 1998 and has two cores in its portfolio: the high-performance quad-MAC SC140 (currently available in products from Motorola and Agere) and the low-power single-MAC SC110 (which has never been fabricated). Both cores are specific implementations of StarCore's scalable SC100 instruction set architecture. StarCore LLC will make the two cores available for license and will also offer complementary IP blocks, such as DMA controllers, and provide a range of design services. Infineon's Carmel core will not be part of StarCore's offerings, however; the partners say that Carmel will be phased out, but that some of its features may work their way into future StarCore architectures.
BDTI has evaluated the SC140, SC110, and Carmel cores. All three are solid, competent architectures, each with its own unique advantages (see http://www.bdti.com) for BDTImark2000™ scores for these processors). Even good architectures struggle for market acceptance, however, and often sink or swim based on considerations other than their technological merits. With Carmel, Infineon was never able to achieve a broad base of licensees, and it appears that the SC110 has been ignored by its own developers. With the formation of StarCore LLC, perhaps at least the SC100 will have a shot at widespread adoption.