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Monday, April 18, 2005
Sigma Adds All-Format Media Processors


Sigma Designs announced that the EM8622L and EM8624L media processors now add full H.264 and VC-1 decoding support to the popular EM8620L series.

The EM8622L is a direct pin- and software-compatible upgrade to the EM8620L, while the EM8624L extends functionality for high-definition display products. At this week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, Sigma will showcase its EM8622L processor at the Sigma hospitality suite located at the Hilton Hotel.

"The EM8622L enables customers to effortlessly upgrade their existing EM8620L based products with H.264 and VC-1 decoding," said Ken Lowe, VP of strategic marketing. "This will lead to a wide range of digital media adapters, IP set-top boxes, high-definition displays and DVD players coming on the market in the second half of this year with all-format media processing, obviating the need to choose which standard to support."

Next Generation Consumer Products Embrace Advanced Codecs and High Definition

The increasing pervasiveness of digital media, coupled with a fundamental need for entertainment alternatives, are paving the way for explosive growth in new types of consumer products and services. Telcos around the world are preparing to launch premium video services, DVD is moving to high definition, homes are using wireless networks to access media anywhere, digital media adapters (DMAs) are featured within displays and portable players are just about to experience video on-the-go. The common denominator: advanced compression technologies and high performance media processors turning these concepts into commercial realities.

Driving this movement is a transition from the digital media monopoly, held by MPEG-2 for the past 10 years, yielding to a duopoly shared by two new video codecs that provide more than twice the compression efficiency: VC-1, a SMPTE specification based on Microsoft's Windows Media Video 9 (WMV9); and H.264, a shared specification from ITU and MPEG associations, also known as AVC, and MPEG-4 part 10. Moving forward, VC-1 and H.264 appear destined to equally share the role as next generation digital media standards.

The IPTV industry, which is just now showing signs of impending growth on a worldwide basis, is rapidly moving toward advanced set-top boxes that feature both VC-1 and H.264. For network operators, these advanced codec solutions enable the delivery of high-quality video services, such as live broadcasts and video-on-demand (VOD) over bandwidth-limited broadband networks. To upscale competition, certain North American and Asian services are looking to use the added compression to feature high-definition channels. By deploying set-top boxes that incorporate all codecs, operators ensure that their investment in customer premise equipment can support future content streams in any major format.

For future DVD players, the movement toward high-definition content using VC-1 and H.264 with continued support for MPEG-2 is a near certainty as both HD-DVD and Blu-ray camps have selected these new codec standards. For some time, advanced DVD players featuring MPEG-4 content, high-definition output, and network connectivity have been popular with entertainment enthusiasts. However, the enormous momentum behind the emergence of HD-DVD and Blu-ray players will usher this level of performance into the mainstream and bring with it a tidal wave of content that requires multi-format support. Meanwhile, high-definition DVD players currently using the WMV9 codec are being purchased by enthusiasts with the desire to utilize the resolution of their HDTVs.

Moving into the future, many other digital media products are adopting one or all of these new video codecs. Digital media receivers (DMRs) provide seamless flow of video content to TV sets throughout the home, and offer access to the growing collections of PC-based, digital photos, music and video, much of which is now based on WMV9 and Windows Media Audio (WMA). Likewise, high-definition televisions are moving to support the widening range of broadcast standards, including the migration of DVB, ARIB and ATSC to high-definition, H.264 content. Moving down the road, new portable media players, sporting video playback, are adding WMV9 compression to more than double their video storage capacity, as well as tap into the growing list of downloadable content.

Decoding in All-Formats

Sigma's EM8622L and EM8624L provide system-on-chip (SOC) silicon solutions that feature all major compression technologies and support high definition. Key features include:

-- Video decoding up to high definition for H.264 (MPEG-4 part 10), VC-1 (WMV9), MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 (part 2).

-- Graphics acceleration with 32-bit alpha-blending, raster operations, and line drawing functions.

-- Audio decoding capability for Dolby Digital, WMA, WMA Pro, MPEG, AAC, MP3, and MPEG 1 or 2, layers I, II and III.

-- JPEG acceleration.

-- Motion adaptive deinterlacing for flat-panel, digital television output, as well as NTSC/PAL encoded video output for standard analog televisions.

-- Digital Rights Management (DRM) support with hardware cryptography engines for high speed payload decryption including AES, DES, triple-DES, RC4, CSS, DVB-CSA and Multi-2.

-- Single-chip solution with on-chip CPU, unified memory controller, IDE controller, general purpose IO and Ethernet MAC controller (EM8624L only).

To ensure quick time-to-market and engineering convenience, Sigma will provide a library of streaming video and media playback software, including a real-time streaming engine for IP-based video-on-demand applications, a DVD navigation module for playback from various forms of stored media, a network stack, and a hardware abstraction layer for low-level program control.

Sigma Designs -- Powering the Digital Media Generation

For more than five years, Sigma Designs has been investing in the development of advanced high-definition codecs to drive the expansion of the digital media consumer market. Based on its media processors and streaming software technologies, Sigma has established a leadership position in single-chip solutions for IPTV set-top boxes, digital media receivers and networked DVD players. Taking advantage of this technology, consumer products are being distributed on a worldwide basis by such leading manufacturers as D-Link, Fujitsu-Siemens, I-O Data, Kenwood, KiSS Technology, LG Electronics, Lite-ON IT, Onkyo, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and many others.

Availability

The EM8622L and EM8624L media processors will be sold through Sigma's direct sales force. Samples of the EM8622L will be available in May and samples of the EM8624L will be available in June. Production availability will begin in August.


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