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In an effort to enhance its position in the burgeoning consumer electronics market, Intel today announced that it will acquire Texas Instruments' cable-modem group.

"Adding the talents of the Texas Instruments' cable team to Intel's efforts to bring its advanced technology to consumer electronics makes for a compelling combination," said Bob Ferreira, general manager of the Cable Segment of Chipzilla's Digital Home Group, in a canned statement.

Intel's goal is to combine its own Atom-based SoCs with what it calls TI's "best-of-breed" Puma 5 cable-modem, settop-box, and transport-gateway platform. "This acquisition specifically strengthens Intel's product offerings for the continuum of cable gateway products and reinforces Intel's continued commitment to the cable industry," said Ferreira.

Puma 5 began shipping in October 2007; shipments hit the one-million mark in April of last year. The Puma line incorporates DOCSIS 3.0 technology, which uses channel bonding to enable residential download speeds of up to 160Mbps and up to 320Mbps in commercial installations. AES and iPv6 are also supported in DOCSIS 3.0 — which, by the way, stands for data over cable service interface specification.

Intel has for some time been straining to move beyond its core competency in server and PC processors. As far back as May of 2009, for example, CEO Paul Otellini told his company's annual gathering of investors to think small — meaning netbooks, handhelds, consumer electronics, and embedded applications. "That's what we're aiming at," he told the moneymen. "This is where we think the growth opportunity is for us."

Otellini was equally positive at the Intel Developer Forum last September, when he predicted that Chipzilla would be selling more SoCs than mainstream processors in five years time.

It hasn't been a smooth road towards the small stuff for Intel, however. Its low-power Menlow platform didn't exactly set the world on fire, and the jury is still out on market acceptance of Menlow's follow-on, Moorestown. A much-ballyhooed SoC partnership with Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC has flatlined.

Intel is pressing on, however. There's no reason to believe that Moorestown's follow-on, Medfield, isn't on track for release next year, and today Intel announced the release of two new Atom chips — the single-core D425 and dual-core D525 — designed for low-power storage devices.

"The versatile Atom processor, which is at the heart of a growing variety of small, innovative, Internet-connected devices, makes it possible for storage vendors to develop low-power appliances that can innocuously sit on a desk or shelf while keeping digital content safe and available anytime, anywhere," said Dinesh Rao of the Intel Storage Group.

Such as a cable-connected settop box featuring the Texas Instruments Intel Puma 5, presumably. ®

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