Tech Industry

All-in-one chip for low-cost PCs

Chromatic Research and Motorola are working together to offer a host of multimedia functions on a single chip for use in sub-$1,000 PCs.

Chromatic Research and Motorola (MOT) said today they are working together to offer a host of multimedia functions on a single, low-cost chip that will be targeted for use in sub-$1,000 PCs.

The partnership will result in the integration of Motorola's 56-kbps software modem technology with Chromatic's Mpact 2 multimedia processor. The Mpact processor works in addition to the PC's main processor to accelerate graphics, audio, and DVD video functions.

The Mpact chip provides a lower-cost alternative for PC manufacturers by reducing the need for expensive dedicated cards and modem chipsets in multimedia PCs.

For instance, by using Motorola's software to incorporate the modem functions into the Mpact chip, a computer maker can free up an expansion slot normally reserved for a modem card. Additionally, by using fewer expansion slots in a PC, the Mpact processor frees up the main microprocessor to accept other functions outside of multimedia.

"The benefits to the [sub-$1,000 PC] industry is one of cost reductions through integration and leveraging the power of the Mpact to do not only multimedia but also advanced communications technologies," said Dave Wilt, a spokesman for Chromatic.

Both companies are aiming at offering a low-price, integrated platform to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) because some 40 percent of computers sold are now priced under $1,000, by some estimates.

In the past, PC makers have been able to price machines below $1,000 by stripping out multimedia functions, according to Chromatic. But company executives believe their chipset will be attractive enough to bring those functions back while keeping PCs priced low enough to appeal to the sub-$1,000 market.

"We hope to enable a second generation of sub-$1,000 PCs that are multimedia-rich rather than multimedia-poor, which is what you have in today's first generation," Wilt added.

The companies plan to deliver a 56-kbps modem integrated with the Mpact "mediaware" platform to OEMs in the spring.

Currently, Motorola features K56flex modem technology, meaning that it connects with other modems using the same technology. Chromatic expects to adopt industry-standard 56-kbps technology, called "V.pcm," by the summer.