Intel to acquire TV chip designer Oplus

Intel's plans to enter the digital television market could be reborn with its purchase of Oplus Technologies, a TV chip designer.

After a failed experiment with digital television chips last year, Intel decided that buying television technology is easier than making it. On Thursday, it announced plans to acquire Israeli TV chip company Oplus Technologies.

Oplus is headquartered in Yokneam, Israel, not far from an Intel design center in Haifa. The company designs chips for plasma TVs and projection systems that are manufactured by other companies. Intel is most interested in Oplus' designs for advanced video processing, which Intel hopes to make part of its digital home strategy in coming years, it said in a statement.

In 2004, Intel tried to make its own digital television processors based on LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology. The LCOS chip was a major highlight of Intel's announcements at the International Consumer Electronics Show that year, but the company was unable to bring a chip to market and canceled the project last October.

Since then, Intel has embarked on a strategy of emphasizing new features within its processors, rather than just trying to improve the performance of its chips with each new generation of products. It also has reorganized the company to focus on specific areas of technology, such as mobility and the digital home.

Intel is not saying at this time whether it plans to use the Oplus technology to develop a new chip for digital televisions or simply to blend the video processing technology into its existing processors and chipsets, said Bill Calder, an Intel spokesman. The company already resells some of its desktop processors for set-top boxes and other consumer electronics devices, but it is planning to develop specific products tailored to those markets at some point in the future, according to sources.

Oplus' technology allows for sophisticated pixel processing that will improve the performance of larger displays, Calder said. This can be used in a wide variety of devices, including PCs, televisions and handheld consumer electronics devices, he said. Intel's LCOS chips, on the other hand, were designed just for rear-projection televisions.

"We've been trying to see where we can optimize IA (Intel Architecture, the backbone of Intel's PC chips) for the consumer electronics industry. Regardless of where we were with LCOS, we've been continuing to look at digital TV in general," Calder said.

Intel would not comment on financial terms of the deal, which is subject to regulatory review. The acquisition should close within a few months, Calder said.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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