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Best of friends?

Untethered devices need not sacrifice a wired data connection. By Philip Ling.

It would be easy to assume that all portable devices today are connected wirelessly and that plain old 10/100 Ethernet is a thing of the past. But it isn’t the case; apparently, support for wired lans is still required in non pc devices. This is a problem for the low power embedded processors typically used in this class of device, because they will have often sacrificed a PCI interface in favour of a lower pin count or operating power.
PCI is still the most prominent interface for wired lan interfaces developed for the pc environment. The pc industry has a history of standardisation in order to keep costs down; if the same is to be true for portable computing devices, then PCI is the obvious format to adopt. Without a PCI interface, however, interfacing a low power embedded processor to a PCI peripheral – in this case Ethernet – becomes slightly more challenging.
An example is Intel’s PXA processor, a heavyweight in terms of portable processors but without the prerequisite PCI interface. The solution Intel has adopted is a companion device, developed by QuickLogic, which provides an interface between the PXA and Intel’s wired Ethernet controllers.
Based on QuickLogic’s QuickPCI family of programmable bridge controllers, it represents the third companion device for the PXA, further enabling Intel’s push into embedded applications.

Graham Pitcher

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