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Set-top boxes get new chip

SGS-Thomson Microelectronics has begun limited shipments of a second-generation processor for set-top boxes.

SGS-Thomson Microelectronics has begun limited shipments of a second-generation processor for set-top boxes.

The STi5500 is a one-chip design integrating a 32-bit processor with an MPEG-2 audio/video "decoder" chip. MPEG technology is used for video playback on PCs, satellite reception systems for PCs, and DVD drives.

Set-top box vendors can also use the chip to build a complete set-top box or other products. The chip allows vendors "to begin immediate development of second-generation set-top boxes and DVD players," the company said.

The STi5500 is compatible with the first-generation SGS-Thomson set-top box chipset and thereby provides migration to new one-chip designs.

SGS-Thomson has approximately 70% of the MPEG-2 decoder chip market, according to a Dataquest report. MPEG-2 decoders are used widely in consumer electronics products such as multimedia PCs, DVD players, and digital set-top boxes.

In related news, IBM recently announced a kit which lets manufacturers to build a digital pay-TV receiver to work with cable television systems or satellite services. The kit uses a 403GC PowerPC processor.