SAN MATEO, Calif. Cirrus Logic Corp.'s Crystal Semiconductor unit has stepped out of its audio-processing niche to introduce a DVD device that it hopes will seed the market for the growing video standard in everything from cars to mini-entertainment systems.
The 98k processor itself was created not by Crystal, but by a small design house called Luxsonar (Fremont, Calif.). What Crystal brings to the table are some of the software components and the weight of its market presence in consumer electronics to promote, sell and support the product line, said Terry Ritchie, vice president of consumer marketing for Cirrus' Crystal Consumer Audio Products Division.
"Luxsonar has got an excellent audio/video system-on-a-chip and good intellectual property, and it's small enough that we were able to work with it," Ritchie said. "It's still a private company, and it doesn't have the capital or horsepower to take the product worldwide."
The 98k works as a back-end DVD decoder that does not need extra glue logic. Its most notable features are twin 32-bit RISC processors for DVD decoding, a video input port for combining external video sources and a bus interface that can connect with hard drives.
The decision to use processors to run DVD code was intended to simplify life for programmers, who often have a hard time untangling low-level real-time operating code from features they want to add. Cirrus is also providing an application programming interface and has a compiler based on the C programming language.
"We have a clean partition between the features of the base DVD player and the software the customer writes," Ritchie said. "We're keeping all the DVD navigation and time-critical software on RISC1, and there's an open, clean application programming interface for RISC2. That's where programmers can write their own software, like for remote control and on-screen display."
Just as important as making the device easy to program is fitting it for use in multiple applications. For this purpose, the 98k includes a digital input port that supports picture-in-picture or full-screen display of external video sources. The idea is to give digital cable or satellite set-top box makers the ability to add a DVD player to their systems.
Surfing is a freebie
"You don't have a to do analog multiplexing, and we can blend with video and do alpha blending between different video sources," Ritchie said. "We can do digital video and Web browsing on top of that. Base Web surfing is a freebie."
The bus interface supports both the A/V bus and IDE/Atapi, which was added in anticipation of more consumer electronics companies building hard drives into their systems. As an audio processor, the 98k supports MP3 decoding, Dolby Digital and DTS output.
Spurred by Playstation 2, which is both a game console and a DVD player, more makers of set-top boxes are looking for ways to add DVD as a check-box item, Ritchie said.
"You almost have to have DVD for free to compete against Playstation 2," Ritchie said. "The biggest sphere for us is not DVD players but all these convergence products, like set-top boxes with DVD."
The 98k will go head to head with National Semiconductor Corp.'s Pantera chip, which combines a 32-bit RISC processor, a video/graphics accelerator, an MPEG decoder and an NTSC/PAL encoder, Ritchie said.
As part of the licensing deal, Luxsonar will be able to market the device to customers in China. Cirrus intends to spend most of its time cultivating new applications that can use DVD.
Packaged in a 208-pin quad flat pack, the 98k is available now for $20 in 10,000-unit volumes.
Cirrus is so confident that customers will come out in droves for the new device that the company will form a design center in January to support it. "I need a snow shovel to handle all the activity," Ritchie said.