Toshiba to launch Cell-based TV in 2009

Toshiba is planning to put the powerful Cell chip into a TV that will launch in the second half of 2009, it said Friday at the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

Toshiba is planning to bring the powerful Cell processor into consumer electronics and launch a TV based on the chip in the second half of 2009, it said Friday at the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

The Cell chip sits at the heart of the PlayStation 3 games console and was developed by Toshiba, Sony and IBM to handle multimedia tasks that required plenty of processing. Each chip contains a single Power PC core and eight co-processors.

Toshiba and Sony have talked about putting the processor into consumer electronics devices for several years. Toshiba demonstrated a Cell-based TV at the CES show in Las Vegas in January but IFA marks the first time that the company has provided a time frame for launch.

"The Cell TV will be released to the Japanese market in autumn 2009," said Nobuhiro Kato, manager of Toshiba's embedded system core technology development department. "For the European market we will release it as soon as possible after Japan. We are planning it for the U.S. but the launch timing is not decided."

During a demonstration at IFA Kato showed how the TV is able to take a single high-definition TV program and analyze the content to create chapters then display several of the chapters simultaneously in windows on the screen for easy navigation.

In four small windows at the bottom of the screen, down-converted high-def streams of four chapters play while in the background filling the screen the selected high-definition video plays. The function requires the Cell chip to simultaneously decode five high-def TV streams — something that is beyond the capability of many other chips.

In other demonstrations, the Cell chip was put to use handling real-time upconverting of a standard-definition video signal to high-definition and zooming in on a high-definition video. It was also shown streaming 48 standard-definition chapters from a video program for navigation.

Whether the demonstrations at IFA make it in to the first Cell TV set remain to be seen, but if they are anything to go by, the TV should be capable of some quite complex multimedia tasks.

"In the future we would like to create new applications using this feature," said Kato.

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