With Gene Frantz, the father of DSP, retiring from TI, I thought it might be time to once again revive a question that comes up every few years (sometimes even because Gene has raised it): is DSP dead?
Believe me, since many of our SoM’s incorporate DSP, and, in turn, are used in our customer’s applications, it’s a question that those of us at Critical Link often ask ourselves. And it’s certainly easy to see why someone might have doubts about DSP’s future.
Many of the tasks that DSP has taken care of are – especially for consumer devices like cell phones and cellular-enabled PDA’s – are being moved to dedicated, hard-coded hardware. For applications like these, that basically have a shelf-life of a couple of years, using a CODEC makes perfect sense, and we see a shrinking DSP market for devices that are more or less throwaway.
But for more complex applications – like those in the instrumentation and test and measurement worlds where Critical Link’s customers are – we predict that DSP’s will be around for the foreseeable future. Let’s face it, there are some tasks – like application specific or “special sauce” mathematical computations– where DSP’s are still far better than general purpose processors. And for longer-lived applications, you want to have the option of programmable processing, because of its flexibility. There are also situations in which you’d choose a DSP because you need to support a brand new protocol for which no CODEC as yet exists (in fact, the standard is just now being finalized). One example of this is H.265. There’s no CODEC, so initial products supporting H.265 will be implemented in programmable DSPs . In fact, even when a hard core like a CODEC exists, , we see customers that want to do something just a little bit different – so they leverage the CODEC, then add their own twist using the flexibility of the DSP.
So, while we are seeing growing interest these days in non-DSP processors – a number of our latest SoMs are ARM-based – rumors of DSP’s death are greatly exaggerated.
And to Gene: congratulations and best wishes for the next big thing you’ll be working on.