U.K.-based start-up Vulcan Machines has released the Moon2, a hard-wired processor with Java Virtual Machine (JVM) technology for advanced digital set-tops and mobile phones.

Vulcan Machines claims its hardware approach to the JVM provides better performance and costs than software-based JVM applications.

JVM is a core technology for Europe's MHP specification and represents the bulk of North America's Open Cable Application Platform 1.0 (OCAP 1.0) execution engine. The OCAP 2.0 spec, released in May, also covers presentation elements for Web-based applications.

The Moon2 is a dedicated hardware processor that links up with the main host processor, said Vulcan Machines Technical Director Rob MacAulay. Software-based JVMs, he argued, are slower and, even when combined with an embedded acceleration engine, tend to suck up too much bandwidth from the host processor.

"We're adding a new machine that talks to the host, but doesn't take bandwidth from it," MacAulay said.

Vulcan Machines estimates that the addition of the Moon2-integrated system chip approach can reduce a set-top's bill of materials by $150 per unit versus boxes that employ a second RISC processor.

Under the company's business plan, Vulcan Machines aims to license its reference designs to other set-top and silicon makers in North America and Europe, said company CEO Richard Ord.

Set-top box manufacturer Access Devices is presently working on a Moon2-based system. Vulcan Machines is "engaged" with its first silicon vendor, but declined to specify it by name.