Intel kills TV chip plans

Firm announced plans to make TV chips in January, but 10 months later, the project gets scratched.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
Earlier this year, Intel delayed its chip for large-screen televisions. Now the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is killing it.

Intel has stopped work on its liquid crystal on silicon semiconductor, stating that the cost of research and development necessary to produce the product wouldn't be worth the potential revenue.

"It is a return-on-investment issue," Intel spokeswoman Shannon Love said.

The chip--involved in the process of projecting video and images onto large screens--was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Intel President Paul Otellini said it would let television manufacturers come out with large-screen projection televisions that sell for less than $1,800 by the end of the year. Some Chinese manufacturers had agreed to build sets around the technology.

This year hasn't been a good one for Intel. The company has had to delay or cancel a number of products. The last time it had a similar experience was in 2000.

The death of the liquid crystal on silicon, or LCOS, project will no doubt buoy rivals such as Texas Instruments, which makes a competing chip, called the Digital Light Processor, for companies such as Samsung. Samsung executives, as well as some analysts, had expressed doubts about Intel's plans since the beginning.

"It seems like the technology and business case for LCOS is still not there," David Steel, vice president of Samsung's digital-media business, said in May.

LCOS technology is fairly finicky. Intel announced in August that it had to delay its first chip. A small competitor, Brilliant Technologies, similarly had to delay its first LCOS televisions. Other companies have also failed in the past.

The televisions themselves also tend to suffer from a size problem. Projection televisions are much larger and bulkier than sets made from plasma screens, or than liquid crystal display, or LCD, televisions. Some manufacturers don't even bother to sell them in Asia or Europe, where homes and apartments, on average, are smaller. Only the big North American family-style room is large enough to contain their girth.

Still, others are forging ahead with LCOS chips. At the CEATEC conference in Tokyo earlier this month, JVC and Sony showed off wide-screen LCOS sets. JVC's is on the market, while Sony's hits U.S. shelves in January. These sets, however, cost several thousand dollars.