Intel, Xerox codevelop image processing chips

Intel and Xerox have co-developed a range of microprocessors which will allow digital imaging product manufacturers to bring products to market more quickly, and with a broader range of features, the companies announced Wednesday.

The chips, which Intel will manufacture, offer the programmability of conventional microprocessors and the high performance of ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits), the companies said. The chips could replace the ASICs commonly used in imaging devices such as copiers, printers and scanners. Where ASICs take a year or two to develop and can't be changed once on the market, the new processors can be reprogrammed to add new functionality to products right up to launch -- and even after, through software upgrades, the companies said.

The chips each contain a number of "compute engines" which can operate in parallel, performing different tasks. Each engine combines a data processor and specialized hardware accelerators for common image processing tasks. Two chips will be available initially: the MXP5400, containing four compute engines, and the MXP5800, containing eight. Multiple processors can also be combined to handle more complex tasks, according to Intel.

During the development process, Xerox ported its document imaging algorithms to the chip to ensure its suitability for such applications. The company now plans to license its imaging algorithms to other companies using the chips, it said. Xerox expects the chips will enable it to develop and deliver a broader range of products faster than existing methods using ASICs.

Intel began distributing samples of the two processors to hardware manufacturers, and expects to ship the processors in volume by the end of the year, it said.

Xerox is developing products based on the chips, the first of which will go on sale in 2004, it said.

The MXP5400 will cost US$51 in quantities of 10,000, and the MXP5800 $68, while a development kit containing the MXP5800, programming tools and documentation costs $2,995, Intel said.

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