Having sold its streaming-media processors into a claimed 45% of Internet appliances, Tvia Inc. is hoping to elbow its way into interactive set-top-box and digital-TV designs as well, with a single chip that supports all three applications.
Tvia, which formerly supplied PC-graphics chipsets under the name iGS Technologies Inc., said its knowledge of 3D imaging has given it an early lead in the emerging broadband video market. Its newest chip, the CyberPro 5300, uses that capability to process three separate video streams.
More than 30 million digital set-top boxes will ship in 2001, according to research firm IDC, with broadband Internet access expected to spur more robust growth for the devices during the next few years.
Unlike PC graphics, where one supplier controls 80% of the microprocessors and 50% of the chipsets, no single player dominates the consumer market, according to Scott Hudson, an analyst at IDC in Mountain View, Calif.
"There are definitely strong players-for example in the digital set-top-box arena, C-Cube, Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, and Conexant seem to have the inside track," Hudson said. "But there's still room for small players."If Tvia can leverage existing relationships with AOLTV/Hughes, General Instrument, Philips Electronics, Sony, and others into the next round of designs, it stands a chance of becoming a major force in the broadband digital entertainment market, according to Hudson.
Where Tvia believes it stands out from the competition is in partnering with operating-system, middleware, and application-software developers, said Vahe Akay, vice president of marketing at Tvia, Santa Clara, Calif.
"The difficulty for OEMs is in the software," Akay said. "We've ported our drivers to a variety of interfaces so customers can get a turnkey mix-and-match solution. With a single platform, users can develop multiple models of products and get them to market quickly."
This modular approach begins at the architectural level. The 5300's FlexiBus architecture consists of four separate processor blocks for input, capture, simultaneous image processing, and output. Within each block, registers can be turned on or off for varying levels of performance, but the customer never has to contend with low-level programming, only C code-level software blocks, according to Akay.
The chip is designed to interface directly to Elan, PowerPC, SH, and Strong-ARM processors, while MIPS-based and X86 derivative CPUs are supported via the PCI bus.
The 5300 features a 64-bit 2D/3D graphics engine, integrated video encoder, high-performance video digital-to-audio conversion, and support for standard video formats such as NTSC/PAL, S-Video, YCrCb/YPrPb, and SCART RGB. A 24-bit RGB port supports other interfaces, such as PanelLink.
The 5300 is sampling, with prices starting at $15 in lots of 100,000.