This May, TI introduced its XDS560 emulator. The key new feature of this emulator is its speed: according to TI, the XDS560 supports data transfer rates of over two Mbytes per second, compared to about 20 Kbytes per second for its predecessor, the XDS510. This higher data bandwidth will be particularly useful for video-processing applications, as it will enable real-time monitoring of video data. BDTI's experience in developing video applications suggests that real-time monitoring is a rare but sorely needed capability. (TI's “network video developers kit” announced in July should also ease development of video applications; it consists of a 'C64xx-based board with Ethernet, audio, and video interfaces, and sample code.)
The XSD560 emulator uses the same JTAG-compliant port as the older XDS510, so the XDS560 can directly replace the XDS510. However, the XDS560 uses a new communications protocol to achieve its two Mbytes/second bandwidth. Most TI processors were designed well before the XDS560 was conceived, and only the 'C621x, 'C671x, and the 'C55xx currently support this new protocol. However, the XDS560 improves data bandwidth even for chips that do not support the new protocol. For these chips, the XDS560 provides twice the data bandwidth of the XDS510. Oddly, TI's performance leader, the 'C64xx, does not support the new protocol. TI says future versions of the 'C64xx will support this protocol.
The XDS560 also holds benefits for large applications; according to TI, the XDS560 can download code two to eight times faster than the XDS510. Unlike the data bandwidth enhancement, this improved program download speed can be realized without use of a new protocol.
In another recent announcement, TI unveiled the first three members of its “reference frameworks” family of production-grade software templates. These templates provide resource management code that makes it easier build interfaces between product-specific code and third-party algorithms, hardware drivers, etc. The intent of these templates is to shift application developers' efforts from critical but generic code to code that adds more value and creates product differentiation.
While none of these developments are earth shattering, they illustrate TI's relentless drive to improve the breadth and depth of support for application developers using TI DSPs. In the long run, this focus on development infrastructure may be TI's saving grace. As the performance gap between DSPs and competing technologies like general-purpose processors disappears, DSP processor vendors cannot rely solely on performance advantages for design wins. Instead, processor vendors must offer compelling combinations of performance, development tools, and application software. TI's long-standing investment in development infrastructure gives it a better chance of surviving the looming processor technology battle than many of its competitors.