Phillips Unveils Integrated Video/Graphics Solution

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Squarely targeting the Internet and Windows-terminal market, Philips Semiconductors has launched an integrated video and 2-D/3-D graphics chip. The SAA9730 integrates PC-level graphics capabilities, I/O functions and high-speed Internet-interface and access features. The chip is designed to interface with a MIPS R5000 or X86 CPU, and includes an NTSC/PAL encoder.

The chip is suitable for system OEMs looking for easy-to-use, low-cost Internet solutions, according to Rodger Sykes, director of marketing for the Windows systems group at Philips Semiconductors, based here. Several system vendors are working to deploy solutions that are similar to but differentiated from WebTV, he added.

The SAA9730 comes with the ability to flexibly interface with either a modem or Ethernet communication interface, so it can be used not only within regular homes “but also in hotels, schools or in any other thin client environment where an Ethernet communication port may be preferred,” Sykes said. The TV-out and monitor-out functions allow information to be shown on two separate displays simultaneously — such as video on a TV display and Web information on a monitor — and in a picture-in-picture format.

The chip can manipulate four different planes, and each plane can be scaled up or down independently. For instance, the layers could include TV in a window, text from e-mail, images from the Web, with a cursor display as the fourth layer. Each of these layers, whether video or graphics, can be shown side by side or as an overlay, and each can be manipulated in any size or position.

The basic 2-D/3-D graphics technologies embedded in the SAA9730 originally came from what was Western Digital's graphics team, acquired by Philips Semiconductors in 1995. The IC, manufactured with a 0.35-micron process, is available today at $18 to $22, in quantities greater than 200,000. Sykes noted that Philips Semiconductors is developing a family of products based on the newly developed SAA9730, in order to expand its target market from Internet terminals to advanced two-way digital set-tops.

By the second quarter of 1999, Philips will create a single chip that integrates the core capabilities of the SAA9730 with multichannel MPEG-2 video and audio decoding functions. The second-generation device will be manufactured in a 0.25-micron process. A third-generation device, planned for launch at the end of 1999 or early 2000, will add a 32-bit TriMedia core. Sykes noted that the TriMedia processor will include audio, MPEG and graphics capabilities, offering flexible software solutions to system OEMs. By that time, the TriMedia core will have become a more cost-effective solution, compared with the one currently used in high-end digital-TV systems. The third-generation chip will be fabricated in a 0.18-micron process.


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