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Multimedia chip ready

Chromatic prepares a multimedia processor called Mpact that will handle graphics, sound, and video, similar to what Microsoft is working on with Talisman.

Chromatic Research is readying a powerful multimedia processor for PCs which is expected to ship in the fall, presaging in some respects what Microsoft's Talisman multimedia architecture may ultimately deliver.

The Chromatic Mpact multimedia chip provides an astounding number of functions in one $150 subsystem and, moreover, provides a glimpse of what may be standard in next-generation business PCs, including:

--Full-screen, full-motion MPEG-2 playback
--Windows Acceleration
--3D graphics using Microsoft?s Direct 3D API
--2D graphics
--A host of sound functions including very-high-quality AC-3 audio, wavetable synthesis, and 3D sound
--Fax/modem
--Speakerphone
--ISDN and POTS videoconferencing

"It does all of this. What they?re saying is true," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose, California.

Surprisingly, Chromatic expects the chip to find its way into more business PCs than consumer PCs.

"Companies are now beginning to see that multimedia is not just for games anymore...3D Web content is going to be a phenomenal thing," Brookwood added.

Just as important, Chromatic foreshadows to some extent what Microsoft proposes with its Talisman architecture, due to hit the market in force in the second half of 1997, Brookwood adds.

Chromatic?s Mpact, like Talisman, handles almost all of a PCs multimedia needs in one relatively inexpensive subsystem, eliminating the need for a number of separate add-in cards.

Mpact, also like Talisman, uses a high-performance Rambus memory architecture and plugs into the PCI bus.

Moreover, similar to Talisman, the basic premise challenges Intel?s concept of a "host"-based MMX multimedia solution where more of the multimedia tasks are handled by a Pentium or P6 family processor.

"The message is similar to MMX" Brookwood said, because like MMX users will get more bang for the buck from a chip that?s going to be part of the basic PC system anyway.

But instead of a Pentium or P6, with the Chromatic and Talisman approach "you?re saying I'm going to spend money on a graphics processor anyway so why not have it do all these other things," he said.