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TI samples parts for digital camera mart

Posted: 27 Feb 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:texas instruments? ti? digital consumer ic? dsp? digital signal processor?

Texas Instruments Inc. is sampling the latest in a series of devices aimed at the rapidly expanding digital camera market. Based on a C54X DSP and an ARM9 processor running at 160MHz, the TMS320DM310 device includes a peripheral set that supports digital imaging and audio applications, including MPEG-4 decode and encode functions.

Besides fielding a family of devices for the range of price-points in the camera and portable multimedia systems market, TI "is taking a hard look at imaging in general, including the higher end," said Kanika Ferrell, marketing manager.

Samples of the DM310 are available now and volumes are scheduled to ship in the first quarter of next year. Besides digital cameras, the programmable device is suited for PDAs and Webpads, video cell phones, small photo printers, and security cameras, TI said.

With a faster DSP and the ARM9 core, the device is about four times more powerful than earlier products from TI aimed primarily at the digital still camera market. For example, the DM310 supports both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoding at 640x480 VGA resolution, and real-time encoding of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video at 352x288 CIF resolution, Ferrell said.

That is important because digital still cameras are not so "still" anymore, said Ed Lee, an analyst at Lyra Research. About half of all digital cameras introduced last year supported video clip capture of 15s to one minute in length. Indeed, among 3-megapixel-class cameras, 82 percent offered that ability.

"The fact that the TI silicon is programmable really helps the camera makers adapt to changes like video clips," Lee said. One big manufacturer came out with a new version of its high-end camera in just a few months that supported the clip function, he said, something hard to do with a non-programmable solution.

The digital camera market is booming. About 17 million "still" cameras shipped worldwide last year, up from 11 million in 2000. Revenues grew to $8 billion last year, with Sony Corp., which controls about one-fourth of the market, followed by Olympus Optical, Kodak and Hewlett-Packard as the leading digital still camera vendors. The U.S. market accounted for 7 million cameras last year.

Lee said digital camera prices are hitting much more affordable price points for the average consumer. Toshiba Corp., for example, sells a 4-megapixel camera for $399 now, a camera that was priced at $699 a year ago.

While the good news is that "resolutions are up and prices are down," Lee said he is worried that a plan to charge per-minute usage fees for providers of MPEG-4 video could "definitely have some impact" on the advance of digital still camera technology.

David Lammers

EE Times

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