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Equator WMV9 media processor plays to consumer

Posted: 18 Mar 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:equator technologies? media processor? bsp-15-d1? microsoft? windows media video 9?

Equator Technologies Inc. has announced the availability of a media processor, priced at $19 that handles multiformat video coding in full D1 resolution.

John O'Donnell, co-founder and CTO of Equator Technologies, called the BSP-15-D1 chip "the most cost-effective media processor on the market, featuring a certified, bit-accurate [Microsoft] Windows Media Video 9 codec," plus support for other compression schemes. The chip is designed for PC-to-TV consumer devices and video-over-Internet Protocol applications.

Although several available ASICs and DSPs also support multiple video codecs, "no chip has broken the $20 price barrier [at] full D1 (720 x 480) video resolution," O'Donnell said. Some competitors provide only quarter-VGA resolution, he said.

Equator's previous-generation media processors, priced at $35 in volume, run at 300MHz to 400MHz. The BSP-15-D1 runs at 256MHz and comes in a lower-cost pin-compatible package. Based on the same die as the earlier silicon, "the BSP-15-D1 has been able to take advantage of improved manufacturing yield," O'Donnell said.

The BP-15-D1 is said to offer the industry's widest codec selection, including WMV 9 at Main Profile, MPEG-2 Main Profile @ Main Level, MPEG-4 Simple Profile and Advanced Simple Profile, JPEG, H.264 and proprietary schemes from such companies as On2 Technologies and Digital Accelerator Corp.

The BSP-15-D1 SoC meets all system-software requirements for video- and image-processing applications without the use of an additional microprocessor, according to Equator. Aside from video- and image-processing algorithms, the part runs Linux, networking stacks, video-on-demand and interactive-TV middleware, virtual machines for Java, and Internet browsers.

Consumer slots open

Since Equator's founding in 1996, the promise of a programmable engine has "enabled our customers to build a market leadership position," O'Donnell said. But Equator's chips haven't found many sockets in the booming consumer market.

O'Donnell is convinced that's about to change. As more consumer electronics companies ship products that include broadband connectivity and an ability to bridge TVs and PCs, design opportunities will open up for Equator's media processors, he said.

Sony Corp. designed Equator's chip into a "location-free" portable broadband LCD television unveiled earlier this year. The system's 12.1-inch touchscreen LCD monitor features IEEE 802.11a/b/g wireless connectivity and an Ethernet port to provide access to television, video, Internet browsing, streaming video, e-mail and digital photos. The device also works as a remote control for home audiovisual equipment.

Equator's media processor is also used in DVD player/recorders developed by Malata North America, whose parent company is based in China. Malata's new devices will support both the playback of Windows Media Video 9 and the recording of video into WMV 9. The system will be the first to feature HighMAT, the high-performance media access technology co-developed by Microsoft and Panasonic to improve the interoperability of PCs and consumer devices for transmitting photos, music, and video files.

Various digital media adapters equipped with the Equator chip are also said to be coming online in volume from such companies as Hewlett-Packard and Linksys. O'Donnell predicted sales of Equator's media processors will total 600,000 units this year, saying that "once broadband leaks into homes and consumer devices start getting connected," they will need to process multiple codecs in software.

The progression is inevitable, he said, noting that "when dial-up modem functions in a PC moved onto DSP-based software processing, the industry never went back to a hardwired modem."

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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