The first incarnation of National Semiconductor's (NatSemi) much touted system on a chip was launched on Thursday for the burgeoning information appliance market.
NatSemi claimed that its now rechristened IA on a chip incorporated the functions of 43 chips on a single piece of silicon and received a slew of support from vendors keen to incorporate it in information appliances such as TV settop boxes.
But the supplier may not have the market to itself for ever. Intel is also developing an integrated chip called Timna, although NatSemi claims it currently has a 12 month window of opportunity.
The chip maker's first offering, the SC1400, has been branded under the Geode moniker and integrates digital video and major PC functions, with the exception of Dram and high voltage components, on one chip.
Such functions include the processor, system logic, graphics, Mpeg video decompression, audio, TV input/output and peripheral input/output - all of which require at least half a dozen separate chips in a conventional settop box, NatSemi claimed.
The chip is based on the company's industry standard x86 based MediaGX processor core, a remnant of its aborted attempt to challenge Intel in the PC processor business, and this is seen as key to whether it is adopted broadly or not.
But European consumer giant Grundig was just one of half a dozen companies that immediately said they would use Geode chips.
Thorsten Herfet, manager of Grundig's innovation and multimedia systems group, said: "With Geode technology, based on the industry standard x86 architecture, Grundig is able to bring a new generation of affordable and easy to use Internet appliances into the homes of millions of people. Grundig's experience in the consumer market, and National's technology and expertise in system integration, is the platform for innovative new products."
Other companies jumping on the bandwagon include America Online, Acer, Gradiente, Legend Computer Systems, Philips Electronics and Wyse Technology. The first products incorporating Geode chips are expected to ship by next summer.
NatSemi believes that this initiative, coupled with its dumping of Cyrix, when it sold the PC processor unit to Taiwanese company Via at the end of June, will help move it back into profitability later this year.
The company has lost money for five straight quarters, but is now back in favour with investors since its admission of defeat in the PC processor market and, as a result, its shares have risen 94 per cent since then to $28.
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