IBM Announces Set-Top Box 'Systems-on-a-Chip'

The new chips are designed to power the present generation of interactive applications offered on set-top boxes, as well as the next generation of chips embedded inside interactive televisions, Paul Belluz, director of digital video products for the IBM's microelectronics division, said in a phone interview today.

The products are expected to accommodate the growing popularity of interactive television and the increasing number of applications being developed for set-top boxes, he said.

"We expect that the passive television set in your living room, with someone broadcasting to you, will change into an interactive experience where you can access video-on-demand, banking on the Internet and more," Belluz said. "There are all kinds of applications coming to your set-top television."

Three chips will be released, all of which are based on either IBM's PowerPC 405 or 401 processor, and will be integrated with other STB (set-top box) components. The components include an MPEG-2 audio/video decoder, a memory interface subsystem and a range of peripheral interfaces.

Two products -- the STB032xx chip and the STB034xx chip -- both run on the PowerPC 405 processor, with speeds of 108MHz or 162MHz, a 16K-bytes instruction cache and an 8K-bytes data cache. The STB021xx chip is based on the PowerPC 401 processor, at speeds of 54MHz.

IBM has also developed a companion audio/video /transport decoder chip to enable emerging applications such as dual channel (picture-in-a-picture) platforms and digital video recording.

The chips using the PowerPC 405 processor and the decoder chip are scheduled for volume availability in July. The chip using the PowerPC 401 will be available in the second half of the year.

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