Cirrus Logic Licenses IEEE 1394 Technology from Digital Harmony

Last week, Cirrus Logic and Digital Harmony Technologies announced a licensing agreement that aims to "proliferate affordable, high-bandwidth digital home-entertainment systems." Under the terms of the agreement, Cirrus Logic has licensed the rights to Digital Harmony's IEEE 1394 intellectual property, thereby merging its Crystal audio technology with Digital Harmony's non-proprietary high-bandwidth data bus.

According to a statement, Cirrus Logic says that by harnessing Digital Harmony's IEEE 1394 firmware and design modules (see previous story), the company plans to produce the industry's first non-proprietary 1394 system-on-chip (SOC) solution for use in digital consumer and professional audio/video equipment.

For its part, Digital Harmony Technologies, provider of the 1394 protocol stack firmware for the SOC, will test and certify equipment containing the new Cirrus Logic chip, and provide its brand logo as a "seal of approval" ensuring product interoperability. Digital Harmony president and CEO Greg Bartlett says that "Cirrus Logic's system-on-chip solution will be a breakthrough product in terms of its level of integration and low cost. We already have licensing agreements with many of the leading makers of A/V equipment in the US, Europe, and Japan. With the availability of Cirrus Logic's robust 1394 system-on-chip and Digital Harmony's firmware, manufacturers can lower their R&D risk, guarantee interoperability, and get to market quickly."

Digital Harmony has licensed its 1394 technology to several consumer-electronics and professional audio manufacturers, including JBL, Harman/Kardon, Boston Acoustics, Meridian Audio, Infinity, Lexicon, Peavey Electronics, Loewe, Madrigal/Mark Levinson, Denon, Onkyo, Panja (formerly AMX/Phast), Stellar One, Go Video, and California Audio Labs. The company claims that its technology allows consumers to interconnect home-entertainment equipment in virtually any configuration they like. "Linking equipment is similar to plugging a telephone into a jack; the devices are powered through the system and do not require a hub to route them, as in a computer network. Moreover, information can be conveyed to multiple users simultaneously without degradation of content."

Skip Taylor, vice president of marketing for Cirrus Logic, states that "This agreement enables us to become the first semiconductor manufacturer to bring the advantages of 1394 technology within the reach of the broad consumer market. Building on our Crystal audio engineering expertise and our experience as the audio-chip solutions leader, we plan to eliminate the cost barrier that has blocked digital A/V products from becoming ubiquitous."

Cirrus Logic says the new SOC is targeted for production in middle to late 2000 and is expected to cost a fraction of today's 1394-based choices. In addition to the Digital Harmony IEEE 1394 design modules, the SOC will embed an ARM microprocessor and a Link Layer Controller. For customers who choose to create their own firmware, Cirrus Logic will also offer the SOC without the Digital Harmony firmware.