Texas Instruments revs up TV, theater

The guys who brought you the Speak & Spell say they can popularize high-definition TV, digital cinema and TV phones. CES photos: TVs of tomorrow

LAS VEGAS--Texas Instruments wants to be the king of high-definition entertainment.

TI, the third-biggest chipmaker in the world, is aggressively working with TV manufacturers, bureaucrats, producers and movie theaters to promote high-definition programming and technology, with a particular emphasis on dropping the cost of HDTV sets and building digital cinemas.

"We're working with our customers to move the price (of HDTV sets) to $1,000," Texas Instruments CEO Rich Templeton said in a meeting with reporters at the tail end of the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "This is the year of HDTV."

TI's interest in high-definition entertainment stems from its digital light processors (DLPs), a line of chips used in rear-projection TVs and projectors. In DLPs, transistors manipulate thousands of tiny mirrors to create an image that then appears on-screen (there are HD DLP TVs and DLP TVs for regular programming).

While TI chips are now found in roughly 16 percent of HDTVs sold, DLP-based TVs are currently targeted to a somewhat limited market. DLP-based TVs typically start at more than $2,000 (though projection TVs with alternative technology can be had for $1,000 and HD sets can be bought for $1,300 or more). Most DLP chips produced today get incorporated into projectors sold to office buildings.

Moreover, rear-projection TVs take up more room than John Madden: The screen diameter typically starts at 40 inches, and the back of the TV can sometimes run 30 inches deep. As a result, most manufacturers only try to sell them in the United States, skipping regions such as Japan and Europe, where cavernous family rooms aren't the norm. LCD TV manufacturers are gobbling up the growth in the under-40-inch market.

To cut costs, TI has been working with manufacturers of other components, such as light sources and lenses, to reduce the cost of parts that go into projection TVs.

"DLP TV will be the most cost-effective delivery vehicle for high-definition TV," Templeton said.

The bulk issue is being hammered out, as well, with smaller-diameter TV sets likely on the way for people who don't want to rearrange their cabinets or furniture, Templeton said.

Thinner DLP TVs have already begun to arrive. At CES, TCL-Thomson Electronics showed off an RCA Scenium TV that measures only

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