Texas Instruments Aims At Video

Texas Instruments is expected Thursday to launch a chip called DaVinci to help the vendor capture a leading role in products including digital cameras, video handsets, and scientific imaging systems.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Texas Instruments, which leveraged its DSP technology to become the dominant player in voice and mobile telephony, is aiming to do the same in the digital video market with the expected launch Thursday (Sept. 8) of a new DSP-enabled video platform called DaVinci.

According to Richard Templeton, TI’s president and CEO, "Just like voice was important in the last 25 years, in ten year’s time we will look back at video as being the next most important stage."

Preliminary indications are that DaVinci will be based on the TMS320C64x+, TI’s newest DSP core. The DaVinci processors will consist of DSP-based system-on-chip, integrating DSP and CPU cores, accelerators, peripherals and necessary software, the Dallas-based company said. More details will be revealed at a 2.30 p.m. EST teleconference to be hosted by the company.

The architecture’s flexibility will permit DaVinci, in TI's view, to cover the enormous range of performance and power combinations in a market that stretches from ultra-compact digital cameras and video handsets to broadcast encoders and scientific image processing systems.

Billing DaVinci as the next-generation digital video engine, Gene Frantz, TI’s principal fellow, pitched DaVinci as a veritable Renaissance for myriad digital consumer products, from IP set-tops, digital TV, video telephony and security to digital still camera and portable video. “Every new business opportunity has something to do with video imaging,” he said.

TI is expected to marshall all its resources to promote DaVinci, including its established position in the DSP arena, its experience in advanced SoC development and its vast array of industry relationships. Despite its intention to address a broad swath of the digital video market with the new platform, its success is hardly a foregone conclusion.

Still to be determined are the specific market segments TI plans to enter, how big and fast the market will grow and whether TI can attract third-party software vendors with enough breadth to cover each digital video system. Most important, TI needs a powerful customer — Nokia was an early backer of TI’s OMAP platform for cellphones — to help make DaVinci indispensable in the digital video market.

Platform approach, again

TI is not the first chip maker to stake its future on a “platform-based” approach to digital video. Philips Semiconductors is promoting its Nexperia platform based on its TriMedia DSP and MIPS core. Similarly, STMicroelectronics is pursuing a reusable architecture. Its current STB7100 family of chips for digital video products includes the ST40, STs’ 32-bit RISC family based on the SuperH architecture, a VLIW core, hardware accelerators and a litany of software.

Nor is this TI’s first crack at the digital video market. “TI entered the set-top box market twice before and then, both times, withdrew when the business was not as good as they thought,” said Chris Carter, managing director at the Digital TV Consultancy (Windsor, England). “Customers are going to want to have confidence that TI is going to be successful before they make a commitment.” Many in the industry believe TI is destined to face a range of new challenges in its efforts to crack the digital video market.

— Ron Wilson in Silicon Valley contributed to this report.

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