02 April 2012

Qualcomm acquires configurable peripherals pioneer

Qualcomm has, apparently, acquired Ubicom with hardly a fanfare. It's the end of the road for a microcontroller company which tried over the years to pursue the idea of configurability.

Launched as Scenix Semiconductor in the 1990s, the company took the then unusual approach of configuring peripherals from software, rather than including them as hardware blocks on the microcontroller. The one criticism which could be levelled at Scenix was that its ambitions may have been a bit low; it was targeting seemingly low level applications such as managing lawn sprinklers.
Its mcus were based on an 8bit risc architecture with a four stage pipeline. Showing just how much the world has changed, the company claimed a fully functional 1200baud DMTF modem could be implemented on one of its devices using 580 words and requiring 17.5MIPs of processing power. And, because the mcu's peripherals were programmable, if you wanted three UARTs, you could have three UARTs.
Back in 2007, when it was renamed Ubicom, the company had a change of management and a change of philosophy with the launch of multithreaded microcontrollers. Those devices offered such features as 10 way multithreading in hardware, lots of on chip memory and flexible I/O.
Ubicom targeted its IP5000 range at networking applications, including wireless routers. But success appeared to evade the company. It appears that, in Qualcomm, it may have found a home for its technology.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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