MILPITAS, Calif. ( ChipWire) -- C-Cube Microsystems Inc. is introducing its latest DVD processing engine, the Ziva-5, a highly integrated device that supports audio formats. Company executives predict the engine will be a key component when DVD technology becomes the heart of several home entertainment systems.
"We see the DVD player as starting to replace CD audio systems," said Tim Vehling, director of marketing for consumer products at the Milpitas, Calif.-based company. "As DVD players become more audiocentric, audio encoding features are going to become more important."
C-Cube's Ziva-5 features both MP3 and standard CD audio capabilities. Vehling said that users are starting to ask for a single system that can play both movies from DVDs and music from CDs. Although the two types of discs look the same, they are formatted differently. Many of the current generation of players can do both, although he said C-Cube is one of the first to add MP3 capabilities. This feature, when combined with an external MP3 player, can support audio jukebox capabilities.
The Ziva-5 is produced with 0.18-micron technology and combines seven chips from current DVD motherboards onto one die. Also, Vehling stressed that current systems have up to four separate DRAM subsystems, each with their own controllers, but since all of those are contained within the Ziva-5, only one memory subsystem is required. "This is a pretty substantial integration, and it will lead to pretty substantial cost reductions," Vehling said.
The DVD market is growing rapidly, from a projected 17.5 million systems shipped worldwide this year to 55 million systems in 2003. C-Cube claims to have the market-share lead for DVD processing engines, with sales of $220 million last year and more than $120 million in the first half of this year.
That market is still maturing, Vehling said, and he expects more features to become common in DVD players. The format is not likely to remain simply a replacement to the standard VCR player. "We don't see the market as mature yet," he said.
Digital audio, especially the MP3 format, is one of the major trends that Vehling's company is betting on. While this technology is lodged primarily in the PC, where broadband connections and audio codec chips are more common, Vehling said that it will be a bigger hit once it moves into systems that consumers more readily link to entertainment. "In order for MP3 to go mainstream, it's got to move out of the PC and into the living room," he predicted.
That is why C-Cube has integrated an MP3 codec onto the Ziva-5 chip. It is based on a 150-MHz, 32-bit Sparc processor and an audio DSP device. Samples will be available this quarter, and volume production is scheduled for early next year. It will be priced at $22.50 in volume. A less-powerful version will ship for $16.50.