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|Industry||Computer hardware and software|
|Headquarters||Los Altos, California, USA|
MicroUnity Systems Engineering, Inc. is a private company located in Los Altos, California and an early developer of broadband microprocessor technologies licensed widely across digital media industries.
Founders and Funding
MicroUnity was founded in 1988 by John Moussouris, a physicist trained at Harvard University and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University who had co-founded MIPS Computer Systems. The Chief Architect is Craig Hansen, who used to be Chief Architect at MIPS and NeXT. An early investor was Moussouris’ Harvard classmate William Randolph Hearst III, the publishing and media executive who became a partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins. In the early 1990s, MicroUnity was backed by over $100 million from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Motorola, and telecommunications leaders like Time Warner and John Malone at Tele-Communications Inc..
Early media processing technology
MicroUnity kept its product development secret until 1995. In early 1996, the company published details at COMPCON  of its media processor hardware and software designs. The technology processed media data of various types and width in a 128-bit data path in parallel.
MicroUnity developed its first designs in BiCMOS at a time when Intel Pentium Pro and Sun Microsystems SPARC were designed in BiCMOS. Company patents describe technologies intended for integration of analog media interfaces with digital circuits.
When foundry capacity became scarce, MicroUnity built a chip manufacturing plant in Sunnyvale, California. In 1995, MicroUnity’s telecommunications investors formed @Home Network to provide internet over cable using modems that could be built more cheaply in CMOS. At the direction of these investors, MicroUnity sold its BiCMOS factory in 1996 to InterConnect Technology, Malaysia.
The lithography innovations MicroUnity developed in its factory included optical proximity correction technology called MaskTools. The company licensed its MaskTools technology to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation and many other US and Asian manufacturers. This lithography business was sold and became the MaskTools division of ASM Lithography in 1999.
In 2010, the company filed a lawsuit against Apple, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and other smartphone and mobile technology providers. On May 10, 2013 MicroUnity entered into a settlement and license agreement with Qualcomm. By July 16, 2013 all the other parties reached settlement and license agreements with MicroUnity.
Next generation media processing technology
MicroUnity’s website and patent filings describe a media processing technology called BroadMX, which aims to extend parallelism beyond the original 128-bit operations by providing compound operations and wide operand caches embedded in execution units.
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- [http:// patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5112761.PN.&OS=PN/5112761&RS=PN/5112761 US Patent], James Matthew, "BiCMOS Process Utilizing Planarization Technique", issued May 12. 1992, assigned to MicroUnity
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