Natl. Semi improves architecture for Net appliances

National Semiconductor Corp. last week unveiled a new architecture for its Geode family of system-on-chip (SoC) products, designed for set-top boxes, Web pads, and other devices that connect to the Internet.

National Semi's Geode family of processors, the Geode SC1200, SC2200 and SC3200, are aimed at those devices, called Information Appliances (IAs), and the new architecture is aimed at improving the performance of future products in the family.

The GeodeLink architecture, which the company unveiled this week at the Embedded Processor Forum (EPF) in San Jose, California, is designed to enhance those chips, while still being based on x86 technology, National Semi said in a statement.

The system-on-chip (SoC) model is popular in the IA market. SoCs put the central processing unit, memory, video and various input-output interfaces on one chip.

The GeodeLink architecture also uses a distributed switched fabric interconnect, which allows the chip's components to connect independently, increasing bandwidth. In other words, the connection method becomes like thread in a sheet, and the data can quickly find the shortest distance between two points without hitting data heading the other way. Other technologies, such as RapidIO, use the same concept to connect multiple chips inside a server.

AOL Time Warner Inc.'s AOLTV set-top box is one product that uses a Geode processor.

The new GeodeLink architecture, which is specifically designed and optimized for IA systems, offers higher performance, lower power consumption and enhanced capabilities over previous architectures, National said in a statement.

GeodeLink also uses active hardware power management, which uses hardware to monitor the system and adjust the clock speed, leaving designers with minimal software work to take advantage of power management, the company said.

National Semi expects to ship samples of products based on the GeodeLink architecture next quarter, with volume production expected in the first half of next year, the company said.

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