Creative Zii Mystery Unraveling
Creative has invested many years and more than US$1b into the development of the Zii, which will form the core of many future Creative products. Zii stands for ZEN II or Zen 2nd Generation and it is not just a chip but a platform comprises of Processor, Board, SDK, Middleware, Optimized OS etc. Creative's buyover of 3DLabs back in 2002 when Creative bought over 3DLabs, the intention is to get hold of their next generation graphics architecture that said to be highly scalable and programmable.
Everything seems quiet only till the recent years, we saw the first chip from 3DLabs, the DMS-02 application processor which is ARM based and fully programmable too.
Today, Creative is going to announce the formation of Zii Labs, comprised of former 3DLabs personnel and some from Creative Labs Personal Digital Entertainment group and their first chip, the ZMS-05 SoC.Each ZMS-05 SoC has dual ARM-926 cores with 48 programmable processor elements (PE) churning out 10GFlops of processing power. The chip is able to re-program itself in real-time to suit the needs of the application being executed, so there's probably a software stack on top controlling the PEs.
In addition, the Zii chip has the ability to shut down unused PEs and wake them up when necessary, thus saving power. For instance, more PEs will be activated when performing intensive tasks such as playing 3D games or playing back HD videos.
The advantage of this design is unlimited scalability. Creative is claiming a Teraflop computer with the footprint of an A4 sheet, and a Petaflop super computer with 147456 ZMS chips in 576 blade servers. Using ARM based chips, Creative is certainly not positioning itself against Intel or AMD in the x86 space but probably Nvidia with their Tegra chips and Texas Instrument DSP chips.
The Zii looks to have various potential markets, including some of the most lucrative such as mobile phones, handhelds, set top boxes, media players etc. It's plausible that the Zii might spark off a turnaround for Creative, which has been seeing falling margins for some time now.
Creative is going to make the SDKs available to developers today, and is also working with many OEM partners worldwide to bring out products based on the ZMS. One familiar name is MSI, which will be working closely with ZiiLABS for their future low cost, high performance Internet-ready devices. Surely, Creative will be the first to make use of the Zii platform for their future products and the first product based on Zii is an iPhone-like device [via VRZOne]
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