Advanced Imaging


Semiconductor Industry

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Semiconductor Chip Joins Video Camcorder, Digital Camera

Mercury News via Knight Ridder

A stealth Silicon Valley semiconductor chip start-up is betting that it can leapfrog bigger video market rivals with chips for high-definition video camcorders that also function as high-quality digital cameras.

Ambarella, a 75-engineer company in Sunnyvale, is announcing today it has created a low-power chip designed to make HD camcorders more practical. Les Kohn, chief technology officer and co-founder, predicts that his company's power-efficient HD chip will make possible smaller, lower cost, and more power-efficient HD camcorder-cameras. Such cameras currently cost about $2,000.

``We think that HD home recording will be the latest breakthrough for video,'' said Kohn, a chip industry veteran who previously worked for Sun Microsystems and C-Cube Microsystems. ``This is the first HD camcorder and digital camera on a chip.''

The new family of chips from Ambarella operate on less than a watt of power, far less than most semiconductor chips, making them ideal for portable gadgets that need a lot of battery life. The chips compress and play back video in a new format called H.264, a high-definition format that will replace the aging MPEG-2 video used today in a variety of technologies. Ambarella has finished its design and expects to sell the chip in the first quarter.

Michelle Abraham, an analyst at market researcher In-Stat, said that HD camcorders are likely to appeal to professional video artists at first, but over time could reach broader markets as prices come down.

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