IBM has introduced a television set-top box design kit that combines hardware and software components in one package. The tightly integrated design is the first step in the company's plan to develop a custom chip that blends set-top box functions on a single sliver of silicon.
The new set-top box design kit, and eventually the single-chip solution, will be sold to equipment manufacturers who will add their own customised functions. The set-top box reference design kit is available for demonstration immediately, with general availability scheduled for June at a price of US$7,500.
The kit integrates all the hardware and software needed to build a set-top box. It works with cable television systems or satellite services, including EchoStar, AlphaStar and Canal+. Manufacturers can easily customise the design to provide online gaming, shopping, web browsing and other premium services, IBM says.
Thomson Consumer Electronics and Tatung Co. have already selected various IBM solutions - all based on PowerPC chips - to power their upcoming set-top boxes. The all-in-one reference design offers a new way for service providers and manufacturers to get products to market quickly.
Separately, Microware Systems Corp. said that its DAVID (Digital Audio/Video Interactive Decoder) and OS-9-based development tools will support IBM's set-top box reference platform.
IBM becomes the latest in a growing list of manufacturers getting into development of set-top boxes. According to market researcher Dataquest, semiconductor sales into the digital set-top-boxes market is expected to rise from $575 million in 1995 to $4.4 billion by 2001, with more than 30 million digital set-top boxes to be in homes worldwide by 2000.