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Intel chip to pave way for cheap digital TVs – report

'Liquid crystal on silicon' chips to replace mirrors, smoke

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Intel will next month move into the digital TV market with a low-cost, single-chip solution to all the electronics and chippery found in today's big screen tellies.

The chip giant will reveal is product at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, which opens its doors in three weeks' time, the New York Times claimed yesterday. The move will herald significantly cheaper sets, possibly by next Christmas, analysts interviewed by the paper forecast.

Little is known about Intel's digital TV chip now, but company President Paul Otellini will give a speech at the show. And like other computer industry players, the company is very keen to broaden demand for its products beyond PCs and servers.

It is thought that Intel's chip utilises a technique called liquid crystal on silicon. Light is shone on the chip, whose surface is made up of millions of LCD elements. Each element can be controlled to adjust the way light reflects of its surface. Put enough of them together and you have the basis for a low-cost back-projection TV system that's not only cheaper but offers a better picture quality that plasma and LCD TVs.

So the theory goes, and we'll have to wait for CES to find out how close Intel has got. Certainly the technique plays to Intel's interesting in building with silicon systems that were traditionally not considered suitable for manufacture in the same way that chips are made. Other examples Intel is pursuing include radio antennae and analog circuits.

Current rear-projection TVs use Texas Instruments' Digital Light Projection system. DLP uses computer-controlled mirrors to reflect light onto the screen. TI's complex technology is not cheap. Building the same system out of multiple low-cost chips would not only reduce costs but allow larger screen sizes to be introduced more quickly.

How much less than the $3500-4000 folk fork out for rear-projection screens today Intel-based sets will be remains to be seen. ®

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