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TI working on OMAP with all-day battery life

Chipmaker rumored to be looking for buyer for apps processor division, could AMD bite?

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 6 August, 2011

READ MORE: M&A | Texas Instruments | Processor

Rumors are still circulating that Texas Instruments might sell off its OMAP application processor business, with AMD possibly a candidate. In the meantime, TI could be increasing the value by working on a new chip that would support all-day battery life.

The firm is reportedly using a combination of techniques - intelligent caching, better memory access and improved system-on-chip design - in a planned successor to the upcoming OMAP5. The 'OMAP6' would be made using 20nm technology for greater power efficiency, according to Fudzilla, and would appear in 2013.


By then, if market speculation is right, OMAP might actually belong to someone else. The reports were uncovered recently by the SemiAccurate industry site, with the investigators saying: "Without being too specific, we are confident that the sale process is well under way, it isn't just a rumor."

Of course, companies talk about M&A options all the time, especially when, like TI, they are going through profound changes of focus. The US company has placed far greater emphasis on its analog business in the past two years, and virtually exited the handset baseband space which it once dominated. The decline of business from its primary customer and development partner, Nokia, prompted its strategic shake-up, but the new direction has been widely praised for delivering growth more quickly than many had expected.

There would, then, be a certain logic to offloading the successful, but fairly standalone, OMAP business at a high price. The boom in ARM-based processors for smartphones and tablets has sent many companies chasing the sector, and those without a strong offering could certainly be tempted by the best established of them all, OMAP, now entering its fifth generation and looking towards quad-core implementations and advances in fashionable areas such as gesture recognition and 3D.

One route would be to reunite OMAP with a baseband offering - when TI moved away from the latter business, the high end device market was increasingly relying on separate processors, but now that smartphones are pushing into the mass market, and power/cost pressures are rising, there is a swing back to single-chip solutions integrating app processor, baseband and other components - as Qualcomm does particularly well with Snapdragon. Nvidia, Broadcom and Intel have all made baseband purchases, while Renesas, which bought Nokia's inhouse modem business, is also promising an integrated offering.

That could make Renesas, which aims to break out of its Japanese niche and become a top five mobile player, a candidate for OMAP, since its own processors have little market share. But AMD is perhaps the most likely option. While Intel is unlikely to hedge its huge bet on its own x86 architecture going fully mobile, AMD may have no such qualms - indeed, it has been widely rumored all year to be formulating a new strategy which would adopt ARM for the mobile market, where it has failed to make an impact outside netbooks, while keeping x86 for the PC space. In particular, many analysts believe x86 has fallen behind in two areas critical to the smartphone/tablet segment - power consumption and multicore - leaving AMD following a roadmap that is no longer assured of the lead. There would also be synergies for AMD's ATI graphics division, which could further boost OMAP's capabilities for multimedia devices and gaming systems.

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