November 3, 2004 12:14 PM PST
Intel devising chip line for consumer electronics
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Intel is readying a line of consumer electronics chips based on the IA-32 architecture, the design underlying the vast majority of Intel's desktop, notebook and server processors, said Louis Burns, co-general manger of the Desktop Platforms Group at Intel.
Consumer electronics manufacturers will be able to incorporate the chips into set-top boxes or digital video recorders (DVRs). Intel hopes to sell more silicon for these two types of product, Burns said.
"We are developing special derivatives of our IA architecture" for consumer electronics, Burns said at the recent Ceatec conference in Japan.
To help generate interest for Intel chips among consumer electronics manufacturers, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is developing reference designs, or blueprints, for various products, he added. It has also created a unit--called the Consumer Electronics Group and headed by Glenda Dorchak--inside the desktop division to promote the technology among consumer device makers.
These chips will likely run at lower speeds, contain a slower bus or sport a smaller cache--a pool of memory inside the processor--than their desktop or notebook relatives, as a way to reduce power consumption and costs. Otherwise, they are likely to be somewhat similar. Intel has used this method in the past to break into new markets.
"Even the desktop and server makers are struggling with power and performance issues," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64. "A lot of what they will be doing is custom configuring these generic blocks for specific markets."
An Intel representative stated that the company has already succeeded in planting some existing desktop chips into consumer electronics devices. A Microsoft MSN set-top box uses an existing Celeron chip, for instance. However, the representative declined to comment on the upcoming line of derivative chips.
Trying to expand into this market with IA-32 chips represents something of an opportunistic shift for Intel. Compared with many other processors, IA-32 chips consume quite a bit of energy, a huge problem in the consumer electronics world, where manufacturers seek to reduce noise and costs by reducing the number of fans and heat sinks.
The company already markets an energy-efficient line of chips, called Xscale, which it sells into the cellular market. The architecture of Xscale chips is derived largely from architecture from England's ARM Holdings. ARM chips, from a variety of manufacturers, are currently
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