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ATI goes after TV set-top market

The PC graphics chip giant is setting its sights on the TV set-top computer market and will use a high-speed processor from Quantum Effect Design as part of the plan.

PC graphics chip giant ATI is setting its sights on the TV set-top computer market and will use a high-speed processor from Quantum Effect Design as part of its overall product offering.

Quantum Effect Design (QED) announced today that it has struck a deal with ATI Technologies whereby a QED processor will be used in a TV set-top box design being promoted by ATI. ATI is the leader in graphics chips for PCs, but has launched a campaign to get its products into other markets.

The newest generation of digital set-top boxes are similar to PCs in features but appeal to a different set of customers--and are not necessarily wedded to designs by Microsoft and Intel. Generally, these computers will be targeted at TV viewers looking for a more versatile way to use their TVs and exploit future interactive features.

Currently, most TV set-top box designs use RISC-architecture processors, because these typically deliver better bang for the buck than mainstream Intel processors. QED's processor is in fact based around a design from RISC vendor MIPS.

Many set-top boxes also use proprietary software that bears little resemblance to the Microsoft software people are used to seeing on PCs, though some designs--including certain vendors that employ ATI's box architecture--will use Microsoft's consumer device operating system called Windows CE.

QED said today that its processor will be used in ATI's second-generation Wonder II box architecture, generally referred to as a "reference design." The Set-top Wonder II design will incorporate ATI's Rage XL and Rage chips.

The QED RM5231 chip runs at 250 MHz and "is combined with ATI's graphics, video, multimedia, and TV tuning technology to control the 2D, 3D, and video applications needed for today's convergence devices," QED said in a statement.

The 64-bit chip can achieve an impressive 500 MFLOPS, an arcane yet critical benchmark indicating its ability to handle multimedia processing tasks.

ATI, for its part, may be positioning itself as one of the leading suppliers of graphics chips to the set-top market. The company has already been selected to provide chips for millions of set-top boxes, according to the companies. ATI is already the No. 1 supplier to the PC market.