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TV set-top box uses Windows CE

Windows CE continues its march into the consumer electronics market with the demonstration of the first prototypes of CE-based television set-top boxes.

Windows CE continued its steady march into the consumer electronics market today with the demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) of the first prototypes of CE-based television set-top boxes.

IGS Technologies showed off a prototype set-top box that runs on Microsoft's CE operating system. The prototype uses an IGS graphics chip and a main processor, such as Advanced Micro Devices' Elan chip.

The IGS prototype is meant to show that the set-top box application is possible using CE, a slimmed-down OS for handheld and other small computing devices.

Microsoft has pitched CE as a viable operating system for TV set-top boxes, hoping to meet the demand to be created by 65 million American homes that currently have set-top boxes. The software giant is reportedly talking to TCI about including CE in the cable giant's next-generation set-top devices.

Current set-top boxes do little more than allow subscribers to view numerous channels and pay-per-view programming. But the next generation of set-top boxes will handle much of the computing tasks associated with the convergence of television and the Internet, including digital television, Web on television, video telephone, DVD playback, and computer gaming.

The current prototype does not include audio chips or Internet access capabilities, but company spokesman Mike Raghavan said versions to be completed in the near future would include those components.

IGS's prototype can also use NEC's MIPS VR4300 chip as the main processor.

Raghavan said that IGS had signed a deal with Philips to equip that company's set-top boxes with graphics boards, but that those devices, due in the second half of this year, would not use CE. He said IGS was in discussion with other companies to provide CE-based boxes, but he would not disclose details.