The Alphamosaic Story

It all started for the Alphamosaic team in 1999, while they were at Cambridge Consultants, working on a mobile videophone for Orange. This was both the world's first cellular videophone and the world's first Microsoft Windows mobile integrated PDA phone.

The Orange videophone

The device was very exciting in many respects. It was the first GSM phone which could do email, surf the web, make voice calls, video calls, act as a camera, and much more. While working on that project, they recognised that the major impediment to the development of mobile technology was the tension between power consumption and the delivery of top-quality content. Customers would be resistant to poor quality images delivered by small batteries, just as they would be by high-quality content powered by oversize battery packs. Miniaturisation coupled with quality and mean power demand was the conundrum the industry faced. 

The first product
 Robert and Steve Barlow put together a small team, and set their minds to developing a multimedia processor that would offer the mobile industry a solution to that seemingly intractable problem, and potentially open up a multi-million dollar business opportunity. The result: VideoCore® a novel 2D digital signal processor (DSP) architecture for low-power processing of video and images.

Alphamosaic is founded

In 2001, Robert and Steve founded Alphamosaic, with financial backing from Prelude Trust (now Esprit). During 2001 the team expanded and were joined by Alan Henderson and CEO Jalal Bagherli from Sony Semiconductor and Devices. Further funding followed with ACT, TTP Ventures and Doughty Hanson, and in November 2002, Alphamosaic announced the commercial availability of VideoCore - the breakthrough they were seeking. For the first time the industry had access to technology that would satisfy the requirement for both low-power and high-quality content on mobile devices. 
Later that year, they announced the launch of their first multimedia processor, VC01. The solution to the problem that they set out to solve 15 months earlier was now a commercial reality. 

Commercial Success

It didn't take the industry long to realise the significance of the breakthrough. Within a year, Samsung had adopted VC01 as its multimedia processor for a range of phones. 

Tokyo FM incorporated VC01 into mobile phones to trial the delivery of digital television to consumers, and Alphamosaic captured the attention of the mobile industry by showcasing high-quality 3D games.

Broadcom acquires Alphamosaic

With all this activity, it was inevitable that Alphamosaic would attract potential purchasers. In fact, it was taken as read that VC backers, who had invested some $35m into the company (not a large amount to bring a fabless semiconductor firm to maturity), would be looking at exit options around the three to five-year mark.

And in September 2004 Broadcom of California acquired Alphamosaic in a deal that had immediate benefits for both parties. For Broadcom, VC01 and VC02 matched perfectly its own portfolio of semiconductor products.

Products using Alphamosaic technology

Perhaps best known of all the devices using Alphamosaic technology is the first Apple video iPod, which used the VideoCore VC02 for video processing and for downloadable games.

VideoCore has been used in products ranging from media players to phones; security systems to extreme sports cameras.

Of course it is also used in phones, including:

  • hinged phones
  • slider phones
  • camera phones
  • mobile TV phones
  • expensive phones, low-cost phones
  • Korean phones, European phones, American phones, Chinese phones
  • silver phones, black phones, white phones, blue phones

... to date over 25m devices out there use VideoCore.