Texas Instruments unveils multimedia Omap chips

Texas Instruments has introduced its latest generation of its Omap processors at the 3GSM World Congress, which will boost the...

Texas Instruments has introduced its latest generation of its Omap processors at the 3GSM World Congress, which will boost the quality of still images and video on mobile phones.

The Omap 2410 and 2420 processors are based on a new architecture that blends aspects of the earlier Omap generation with new features to enhance multimedia applications, said Richard Kerslake, director of Omap processors at Texas.

An Omap processor consists of a processor core that handles the operating system tasks and a DSP (digital signal processor) that works on the audio and video applications. Texas kept the C55x DSP (digital signal processor) from the earlier Omap generation, but added additional features such as a hardware engine for three-dimensional images.

Texas built the new chips on its 90-nanometer process technology, which allows chip makers to increase the number of transistors and features on a single chip while keeping power consumption steady. The company uses an analogue power management chip in conjunction with Omap processors to manage power in accordance with the demands of phone manufacturers for smaller and more powerful phones.

The Omap 2420 comes with a video accelerator that will allow users to play more advanced video games and take up to four megapixel digital pictures. The image quality on most camera phones is quite poor, but newer phones based on this chip will be able to take pictures as well as many low-end standalone digital cameras.

Most camera phones sold in Europe and the US are only capable of taking one megapixel pictures, said IDC analyst Alex Slawsby. Japanese customers are willing to pay more for two megapixel cameras, but the demand has not been matched elsewhere in the world.

With the latest chip, Texas should be able to offer phone manufacturers the opportunity to improve the image quality without having to charge a prohibitive amount, Slawsby said.

Users will also be able to link their mobile phones to their televisions if they  use the 2420, Kerslake said. The chip has support for TV-out links, so videos or still images captured on the phone can be played back on a much larger screen.

The chips can be used with any 2.5G or 3G modem chip, and with all major mobile phone operating systems including Windows, Symbian, Linux, and Palm OS.

Texas will ship samples of both chips to its partners in the first half of this year, and phones with the chips are not expected until the first half of next year. Pricing was not disclosed.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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