Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Scoop! Brit chip designers score coup as Apple picks chips for next gen mobile multimedia device...the m-Pod?

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 5, 2005

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

A British team of chip designers has won one of the most coveted of customers in the chip industry--Apple Computer. SiliconValleyWatcher has learned that Apple has contracted to use the powerful video, image, and music chips designed by Alphamosaic, in Cambridge, UK, in a future multimedia mobile device.

While the kudos goes to the Alphamosaic teams, the money from the deal goes to Broadcom, the US communication chips leader. Broadcom acquired the 57 person Alphamosaic for about $125m in September 2004.

v-Pod or m-Pod?

The branding for the Apple multimedia product is not yet known. Looking at the public specifications describing the Alphamosaic chips, it is clear that Apple could use it to build a family of mobile hand-held digital devices equipped with wireless communications that would be far more advanced than its current iPod family.

From press release dated September 20, 2004:

Building on the success of the VC01, Alphamosaic is now sampling VC02, the world's most advanced mobile multimedia processor. The VC02 can display video on 3.5 inch color LCDs and capture 8 megapixel images, making it ideal for watching TV, making videos or taking studio-quality photos on a cellphone.

The Apple device could be ready in volume quantities by the end of 2005 or early January 2006 if Apple gets the ball rolling now. CEO Steve Jobs often debuts important new products at the MacWorld show in San Francisco in early January.

Broadcom says the chip uses very small amounts of battery power and "excels in high-quality 3D graphics performance with the capability to support pixel shading and volumetric lighting with low power consumption, making it ideal for use in mobile gaming applications and comparable in performance to home consoles."

Plus it can be integrated with cell phone chips from Broadcom.

Apple could use the chips to produce a multimedia iPod that is also a gaming platform, 8 megapixel digital camera, digital video recorder, and cell phone (with Bluetooth and wireless Ethernet). But that is unlikely because of the interface complexity of a multi-function digital device.

Instead, Apple could use Alphamosaic chips as the common core of a family of iPod devices that could include camera, gaming and wireless connectivity products/features. This would provide a common development platform for applications that run across the family of Alphamosaic-based iPods.
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