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Cirrus plans $599 computer

Cirrus Logic announces a design blueprint for a low-cost consumer PC and a partner to make such a system.

Chipmaker Cirrus Logic announced a design blueprint for a low-cost consumer PC and a partner to manufacture such a system, which could sell for as little as $599.

The "MediaMax EC-II" design, seen as the basis for a commercial product, includes a DVD player, TV tuner, 3D graphics, a v.90-compliant 56-kbps modem, a 233-MHz MMX processor, 32MB of memory, 2.1GB hard drive, and 2 USB (universal serial bus) ports for easy peripheral hook-ups. Naturally, the design is a based on a Cirrus chip.

Once a graphics chip giant, chipmakers like Cirrus have been looking to get in on the exploding sub-$1,000 sector as the market for graphics chips erodes due to stiff competition and falling prices. Cirrus is trying to win orders from low-cost computer manufacturers by developing inexpensive chip designs for set-top boxes and Internet appliances.

A fully loaded system would have an estimated retail price of $799. A MediaMax without DVD and TV tuner will be priced around $599. Frank Greer, director of the systems design center for Cirrus, said that those prices may come down further by the time the MediaMax is introduced in September.

"We've benefited from industry pricing pressure," Greer added. "DVD drives have come down a good bit; memory prices and general industry pricing pressure have all helped."

Replacing serial and parallel ports with new USB connections also reduced the cost of manufacturing, Greer noted.

The MediaMax design was jointly developed by Cirrus, IBM, and Philips.

Universal Scientific Industrial Company has signed on to manufacture the MediaMax.