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TI launches home multimedia engine

Posted: 17 May 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ti? ic? risc? arm? arm9?

Texas Instruments Inc. has launched an IC aimed at home streaming media that integrates the company's C54x DSP, an ARM9 RISC processor and a host of peripherals.

Tom Kelly, business development manager for TI's Streaming Media group, cited "digital media receivers/adapters" and Internet Protocol (IP) set-top boxes as two target applications for the TMS320DM342DSP chip. The former box is connected to a home PC via a wired or wireless LAN. The latter is a dedicated set-top that receives services such as subscription movies from a broadband provider, he explained.

Pitched as a multimedia engine that can meet the low price-point required by IP set-tops, the chip supports multiformat audio, video and imaging content, TI said, though it declined to cite a price. However, Kelly estimated that a single OEM board equipped with the DMS342, an audio codec, Ethernet MAC/PHY silicon, off-chip memory, a power supply and a very inexpensive microcontroller would sell for about $40 to $50.

New apps emerging

Once a consumer electronics product gets linked to broadband, its access to the Internet "opens up" whole new applications, Kelly said. Such digital streaming-media boxes must simultaneously support a number of advanced media formats in addition to MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, he added. They include MPEG-4, H.264, Windows Media Video 9 and H.263 for videoconferencing and video chat sessions. In the emerging market for streaming-media consumer devices, a basic single-format box with limited ability to decode various types of video won't be attractive to consumers, Kelly said.

The emphasis of the DM342 design is on flexibility and low cost, rather than support for high-definition (HD) video. The chip can decode standard-definition video at 30fps of MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 in D1 (720pixels x 480pixels) resolution. For Windows Media Video 9 and H.264, the DM342 decodes video at less than full SD resolution. More specifically, Kelly said, the DM342 supports only half-D1 resolution for H.264, while offering half- to 2/3-D1 resolution for Windows Media Video 9.

The new DM342 comes with an integrated ARM926EJ-S RISC core and a number of peripherals, including a video encoder with video D/A converter, USB 2.0 dual-role On-The-Go controller and seamless interface to most popular memory cards. "This leads to significant cost savings for system vendors," Kelly said.

TI is not the only semiconductor manufacturer gearing up for the emerging digital media receiver/IP set-top market. Kelly, however, contends that most chip companies won't be able to respond adequately to the diversified media-format needs of the IP set-top market. Even if they offer new chips integrated with hardwired cores to handle advanced video codecs, such a traditional hardwired approach "would eat up too much silicon space, and it would never be able to run all these different media streams at the same time," he said.

The DM342 is already sampling, and volume production is scheduled for summer.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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