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TI to flip smaller switch

Texas Instruments will leverage its advanced chip production technology to put all the switches and routers that move data on the Internet into a switch the size of a soda can.

Texas Instruments(TXN) will leverage its recently announced "Timeline" advanced chip production technology to put all the switches and routers that move data on the Internet into a switch the size of a soda can.

"People don't see routers and switches everyday, but they feel the lack of bandwidth every day. We want to lay the groundwork on what end users can see as a benefit in the coming year to two years," said Brett Butler, director of network technology for TI.

The company's previously announced Timeline technology allows TI to cram 125 million transistors into one chip, about 20 times the maximum number available today. The equivalent number of transistors would equal the chip real estate on 30 Pentium processors, according to TI.

With this increase in computing power, the promise of unlimited bandwidth--or at least faster access to data--is that much closer.

"We've already started working with some companies to produce [network components ]," Butler said. "We are in beta development with several customers in several product areas, and there will probably be samples of this in the back end of 1997, with some products shipping in late '97 or early '98."

Increasing bandwidth at the ISP and telephone network level isn't the only way that TI wants to use the new process technology.

When used in digital signal processing, Butler says chips made with the smaller transistors will have the computing power to make XDSL a reality. Devices such as handsets, wireless phones, and personal digital assistants are being looked at as well, because chips using the smaller transistors will consume less power.

"This is more than a turn of the screw," Butler says of the increased power the Timeline technology offers. "It is a step up in functional improvement over previous technologies."