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System-on-a-chip market growing

Texas Instruments aims to tap demand for TV set-top boxes, personal digital assistants, and cell phones.

Joining an increasingly crowded field, Texas Instruments (TI) will release a "system on a chip," which combines audio, video, and graphics capabilities onto a single piece of silicon.

The market for inexpensive and versatile integrated chips is growing proportionately to the growth of demand for TV set-top boxes, personal digital assistants, and cell phones, consumer devices that require inexpensive "embedded" microprocessors. As an example of its attraction for manufacturers, noted chipmaker Cirrus stated its system-on-a-chip goals last year, and is expected to release its version in 1999.

"It's a very competitive market, but the potential payoffs are also very big," said Tammy Gray, marketing manager for TI's AV700. "There's room for lots of different people."

TI's new chip integrates video, audio, and graphics on the chip, which is designed to run on Integrated Systems' operating system for set-top boxes. According to Gray, the AV700 integrates the functions of 17 different chips.

The AV700 is a 32-bit RISC processor that features MPEG-2 video and MPEG playback. MPEG is a common standard for full-motion video playback, such as movie titles.

The AV700 chip is designed to provide a complete platform on one chip, which would speed the total time to market of the set-top boxes based on this operating system.

Gray said the chip will be available sometime this spring. Pricing has not yet been determined.