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$20 IPTV chip boosts speed, uses less power

Campbell, Calif. – Equator Technologies Inc. launched a fifth generation of its video processor today for emerging markets like Internet Protocol TV set-top boxes and digital media adapters. The relatively low-cost BSP-16 arrives as the company merges with Pixelworks Inc., a fast-rising maker of display chips.

“With these two moves, the competitive situation between us and the big DSP players has significantly shifted,” said John O'Donnell, chief technology officer of Equator.

In the past, Equator lacked a $20 part to compete with general-purpose DSPs from companies like Analog Devices and Texas Instruments, which also have significantly larger sales and support staffs. With the acquisition, 75-person Equator teams up with Pixelworks (Tualatin, Ore.), which boasts 350 employees, roughly a third of them in the booming China market.

Before the merger, Equator had only two of its five sales and support staff focused on China, where the company spent 18 months working on emerging IPTV networks. For Pixelworks, the merger with Equator buys it a fast entry into the nascent IPTV business and a programmable video processor to replace a hardwired device in its portfolio that it OEM-ed from an unnamed chip supplier.

“The BSP-16 is all about cost, schedule and power dissipation,” O'Donnell said. The $20 part, sampling now, integrates such functions as an IDE hard disk and NAND flash controllers, serial ports and high-definition video input.

While less costly, the device also boosts performance over the current BSP-15. Shifting to a 130-nanometer TSMC process, the BSP-16 now runs at 500 MHz, up from 400 MHz, executing up to 8 billion multiply-accumulate functions/second. The chip also consumes an average 1.7 watts, down from 3 W, and measures 60 mm2, down from 88 mm2. It is the first Equator chip to support DDR SDRAM memory.

The BSP-16 integrates a 3DES block to support security, especially for a range of supported digital rights management programs. This includes the DRM that comes with Microsoft's Windows Media 9. The chip supports AES in software, requiring about 1 percent of the processor's muscle. Equator is evaluating whether it needs to support AES in hardware in its next generation.

The new chip supports the H.264 video compression codec for standard-definition (SD) video including support for personal video recorder features in SD. High-def video is supported through Microsoft's Windows Media 9 and MPEG-2 codecs.

The company's next-generation chip, the BSP-17, expected in the fall of 2006, will support H.264 for high-def. A follow-on part, the BSP-18, will support multiple SD and HD streams for use in a high-def personal video recorder.

Binary-compatible with today's BSP-15, the BSP-16 is optimized for four-layer pc boards. Hardware reference designs and software tools are available.

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