Intel Capital makes digital home investments

Intel Corp.'s capital arm, Intel Capital, has invested in four wireless and networking technology companies in the hope of solving interoperability, bandwidth and distribution problems in home entertainment devices, it said Wednesday.

The four companies are UWB (ultra wideband) wireless chipset developers Staccato Communications Inc. and Wisair Ltd., Digital 5 Inc., a developer of consumer electronics networking technology, and Trymedia Systems Inc., which develops software copy-prevention systems.

Intel expects their technologies to help solve problems that are hampering the exchange of games, music and video between multiple home entertainment devices, it said. Intel launched its Digital Home Fund in January with a total of US$200 million to invest, but it did not disclose Wednesday how much it had invested in any of the four companies.

Staccato, of San Diego, California, is designing an all-CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) one-chip UWB system. It intends this to be a wireless replacement for the USB (Universal Serial Bus) and FireWire (IEEE1394) cables used to connect computers and peripherals, according to its Web site. It has been around since 2002, and on April 6 closed its second round of financing with $20 million in funding from four investors. Intel's investment is in addition to this.

Wisair, part of RAD Group in Tel Aviv, Israel, also designs UWB chips. It expects these will be used in devices including DVD players, PDAs (personal digital assistants), TVs and cameras to transfer audio, video and data. Before the investment from Intel, it obtained a second round of funding, worth US$15.5 million, on Jan. 26, according to its Web site.

Digital 5, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, describes its technology as consumer electronic networking middleware, designed to link television or audio components to PCs to share audio, pictures, and video over wireless or wired networks. Other investors include Royal Philips Electronics NV and Texas Instruments Inc.

Trymedia, in San Francisco, sells copy-prevention systems for software and games distributed on CD or by download. Software incorporating Trymedia's ActiveMark can be passed on to friends or colleagues, but the copy reverts to a trial version until it is repurchased, making it possible to distribute software on a "try before you buy" basis.

Before the launch of the Digital Home Fund, Intel had previously invested in related projects at a number of other companies, it said. BridgeCo AG, in Zurich, develops software and semiconductors for the wired and wireless distribution of audio and video around the home.

Semiconductor design company Entropic Communications Inc. of San Diego, California, is developing a high-speed data networking system for use over coaxial cable TV connections. Musicmatch Inc., also in San Diego, develops digital jukebox software for PCs, and Zinio Systems Inc. of San Francisco transforms paper magazines into electronic documents and distributes them.

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