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Chip foils Blu-ray-DVD war

Posted: 01 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Blu-ray? HD-DVD? HDTV? DVD? HD video decoder?

The much-hyped showdown between competing next-generation DVD standards appears to be fizzling somewhat, with industry insiders expecting electronics companies to introduce universal players supporting two rival disk formats within a year. Enabling these anticipated universal players are the new chips from several vendors that support both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats.

The latest such product, rolled out by Broadcom Corp. last November, was claimed to be the first single-chip solution to support both standards.

Broadcom originally introduced a high-definition A/V decoder chip supporting both formats a year ago. But the company's latest device, the BCM7440, integrates much more functionality, according to the company, including a pair of MIPS cores, a multistream HD video decoder, dedicated graphics engines, DSP-based audio processors, a security processor, DDR2 interfaces, integrated A/V outputs, and an array of system and network connectivity interfaces.

The device supports all decoding, processing and memory functions of both specifications, and offers a universal optical-disk software stack that complies with both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, Broadcom said. The 130nm chip supports all profiles of both specifications and includes application programming interface support and full navigation suites, according to the company. The design will be migrated to a 65nm process this year.

The goal of the BCM7440 is to offer system designers a complete platform that includes "all of the little things that other people may be missing," said Don Shulsinger, VP of business development for Broadcom's broadband communications group. The company is providing a complete hardware and software reference design that reduces an OEM's development time and associated cost, he said. "We really have collapsed the entire thing into a single piece of silicon," Shulsinger said.

The BCM7440 supports all the mandatory A/V compression standards required for Blu-ray and HD-DVD, including H.264 VC-1, MPEG-2, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Tru-HD and DTS-HD, Broadcom said. It also provides full backward-compatibility for current DVD video titles as well as DVD-R, DVD-VR and audio CDs, according to the company.

Shulsinger said he expects the second-generation DVD market to evolve in much the same way as the standard-definition DVD market didinitially using chips that provide the essentials, but eventually evolving to integrate more of the ancillary elements directly into the chip. This time around, though, Shulsinger expects this cycle to collapse into a much shorter period of roughly three to four years, compared with roughly eight to nine years with standard-definition DVD. "I do think that in the end, it will be a shorter time frame to higher levels of integration," he said.

Starting point for multiformat players includes cores, HD video decoder, graphics engine and processors.

To that end, Broadcom has decided to offer a highly integrated SoC at a time when most of its competitors are "still struggling to introduce first-generation devices" that support one but not both of the competing formats, said Shulsinger. A big part of the challenge is developing software that supports two different programming environmentsMicrosoft's HDi for HD-DVD and Java for Blu-ray. One of Broadcom's strengths, Shulsinger believes, is its perceived lead in software development, where he credited heavy Broadcom investment with enabling developers to fully understand the system.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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