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PARIS ” What began last December as an agreement between Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics to standardize interfaces for application processors targeting 2.5G and 3G mobile phones has grown into a broader industry consortium called the Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) Alliance that now includes ARM Ltd. and Nokia. The group said Tuesday (July 29) it intends to gather industry input for standardizing processor hardware and software interfaces to functions such as memory, displays and multimedia devices. The overall goal will be simplifying and accelerating the design of “application rich” mobile devices.

The expanded alliance is needed because “challenges to standardize such interfaces are so huge and complex, as voice-centric mobile phones become camera phones or PDAs,” said Kari Tuutti, vice president of communications at Nokia Mobile Phones.

The scope of the work involved in the expanded MIPI is “very much a continuation of OMAPI (Open Mobile Application Processor Interfaces) initiative” founded by TI and STMicro, Tuutti said.

Richard Chesson, STMicro's director of marketing for multimedia platforms, said OMAPI's structure didn't allow input from others. “Instead, we took the original specifications defined under OMAPI, changed the name to MIPI and opened it up as a non-profit organization along the lines of the Bluetooth SIG,” Chesson said.

With the addition of Nokia, the world largest mobile handset vendor, and ARM, which controls the basic processor architecture in handsets, the alliance is expected to “simplify the development and speed up the process of introducing integrated products, such as camera phones,” Tuutti said.

The group hopes to attract the participation of component suppliers, operating system developers, other mobile device manufacturers and camera display suppliers, Chesson said.

According to Chesson, MIPI also fits in between the Open Multimedia Alliance, which defines services and applications, and the Third Generation Partnership Project for 3G cellular networks, which defines physical layer specifications

MIPI promoters are positioning the new consortium as the industry group that will define microprocessors, peripherals and software interfaces in multimedia-rich mobile devices.

The group expects to unveil the first version of the specification, MIPI 1.0, by the end of 2003. It will form 10 working groups to develop specifications in areas such as camera and display interface, software abstraction, communications interface and system control.

Membership cost from $5000 to $50,000, “depending on the level of engagement,” said Oliver Gunasekara, ARM's director of wireless technology. “We spent a lot of time making sure the intellectual property rights are clear,” he added.

“The market has 10 to 12 major applications-processor architectures, four major operating systems and numerous suppliers of components, such as LCDs, peripherals, modems and memory,” said Gunasekara. “It is just creating headaches for everyone involved and taking our attention away from our value-add.”

With MIPI, he added, “companies will find it easier to mix-and-match components to shorten the time to market while letting them focus on what they do best.”

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