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Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Texas Instruments sets sights on video chips


Texas Instruments succeeded in transforming itself from the best-known calculator maker to the largest seller of chips for mobile phones. Now it wants to repeat that success in the market for video chips.

The firm planned to announce an all-in-one video chip technology yesterday that will make it easier for electronics producers to design and manufacture video products including digital cameras, video phones and portable media players.

Its chief executive, Richard Templeton, said in an interview that digital video products are now limited by short battery life, long development time and high price. Texas Instruments' new video technology, called Da Vinci, aims to solve those problems by providing manufacturers with an integrated set of chips, software and development tools. This approach, it said, could help keep production costs down while ensuring that devices are compatible.

Video chips are fast becoming an important market.

"The opportunity in the video world looks a lot like what it once did in the wireless world," Templeton said.

As the third largest semiconductor company, Texas Instruments supplies nearly 60 percent of the chips found in cellphones. It expects to have Da Vinci technology, including processors, software and tools, ready to market by the end of the year.

In an era when companies are increasingly selling technology "platforms," rather than individual components, Texas Instruments' approach with Da Vinci is no surprise to analysts. Its announcement is coming two weeks after Intel announced its own new platform for digital home electronics, called Viiv. With Viiv, which will be marketed in the first half of next year, Intel hopes to make it easier for users to share digital content over networks and make their personal computers compatible with other electronic devices.

IdaRose Sylvester, senior analyst with IDC in San Mateo, California, said: "As semiconductor companies, they are both trying to take the reins of the digital home. Having a brand identity in this market is extremely important."

Like Intel's Viiv, Da Vinci is a repackaging of existing technology, along with some new components, and requires the cooperation of other component makers.

"The launch will be more about platforms and a brand than a revolutionary new product," Sylvester said.

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