AST co-founder seeks room inside the PC

Safi Qureshey's Quartics aims to create a new type of processor for Netbooks that would augment the CPU and graphics chip for handling things like Flash movies and video conferencing.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read

LOS ANGELES--There is very little room inside a PC these days, both literally and figuratively.

Safi Qureshey, best known as the "S" in the old PC maker AST Research, is trying to get a new chip company off the ground. Ina Fried/CNET News

Tiny Netbooks leave little physical space for any added components, while brutal price competition means it's just as hard financially to convince PC makers they need something extra.

Still, that's what Safi Qureshey, who co-founded PC maker AST Research almost three decades ago, is trying to do.

His start-up, Quartics, is pitching a chip that would augment the PC's main processor and graphics card with a programmable chip for handling things like Flash movies and video conferencing.

"It's a co-processor. It does not replace anything," Qureshey said in an interview at last week's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles. Quartics' main targets, he said, are Netbooks and cheap laptops that don't have a lot of horespower to spare.

"We significantly enhance the video quality of a very low-cost laptop and we enhance battery life," Qureshey said in an interview. (For more from the interview, check out the video interview below.)

The company has been trying to get off the ground for a while now, having started in 2003. It has a number of venture backers and but has not publicly announced any PC maker customers.

"We are working very closely with one. We just don't want to preannounce their name," he said.

Quartics' chips are being manufactured in sample quantities, Qureshey said, with production volumes planned for the first quarter of next year.

But the advent of Netbooks makes Qureshey hopeful that such chips are now poised to take off.

Cost will certainly be a key factor. Qureshey said the company hopes to get the volume price of its chip "in the teens" of dollars as opposed to the "twenties" where it is today. Some of that cost, he said, can be offset by using a cheaper main processor or graphics chip, he said.

Microsoft was showing off a sample of Quartics' chip in one of its booths at WinHEC.