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Sharper desktop picture comes into focus

Forces are converging in an effort to sharpen the quality of digital video, as Logitech and Intel make moves to improve PC video and cameras.

Money, management, and technology--the basic raw materials of Silicon Valley--are being gathered in an effort to sharpen the quality of digital video.

Logitech, best known for PC peripherals such as keyboards, said today that it is forming a new company focused on designing and developing peripherals for PC video. The company declined to comment about the details of products from the new venture but confirmed that the accessories will focus on PC video cameras.

Backed by $10 million from venture capital firms Atlas Venture and @Venture, the new company will be headed by Guerrino De Luca, president of Logitech.

Separately, Intel today announced an initiative, which will also involve Logitech, to create a design guide to improve the interaction between PC cameras and software applications for the devices.

Most computers can now handle the processing requirements of large video files. That, plus the growth of high-speed Net connections, has resulted in high-tech companies focusing on improving the digital video accessories to enhance the total experience.

Although broadband Internet connections are not yet as common as analog or dial-up connections, the necessary infrastructure is well on its way, analysts say. The missing piece now is improving the interaction between the PC and video peripherals.

Both announcements focus on PC cameras, or digital video cameras connected to the computer which capture live video of the user. Some games and other software can then insert the user's image into the application and even use the user's movements to control the application. Virtual reality games, for example, use this type of video.

Logitech cited statistics from market research firm International Data Corporation indicating that there are currently 2 million PC cameras in the United States. The market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 70 percent through 2002, according to IDC.

Intel will be working with Logitech, as well as with Kodak and software developers like Reality Fusion, Sabbatical, and Vivid Group to identify and agree upon specifications for these applications and the PC cameras which are used with them, Intel said. The first draft of the design guide will be available early next year.

Intel cited a separate study from Cahner's In-Stat, predicting that 2.4 million PC cameras will be sold this year.