DTV Invades the Desktop:

Following up on the start of the US's digital broadcasting system on November 1, both Panasonic Industrial Company and Philips Semiconductors announced last week new all-format digital television (DTV) tuner/decoder cards. These cards will allow computer users to view Digital TV (DTV) signals using their desktop PCs hooked up to either a computer monitor or television set. As we reported last week, this may help foster the availabilty of $500 DTV tuners for PCs by early next year.

According to Panasonic, their PC-DTV tuner/decoder card, developed in collaboration with Compaq Computer, is a PCI-based, two-board system that enables computers to receive, decode and display high-definition and digital TV signals on the screen of a PC. It consists of a tuner board which receives and passes-through both Advanced Television System Committee (ATSC) format DTV signals as well as the current NTSC analog TV signals over a PCI bus, and a video decoder board which decodes digital TV signals in all 18 ATSC formats for display of high-definition video images or 480p standard-definition video images over a VIP-2 bus.

Ash Chabra, Group Manager of the Electronic Components Group of Panasonic Industrial Company stated that "by supplying our personal computer OEMs with these boards, we expect to accelerate the development of high-definition and digital TV in this country. We can provide end-to-end DTV solutions for PC's, including individual DTV system components, from the RF tuner through the all-format MPEG-2 video decoder."

Panasonic will initially market this DTV-PC card system on an OEM basis to computer manufacturers, peripheral board manufacturers, TV broadcasters, content creation studios and content developers. Samples will be available by the end of this year with targeted volume production in early spring 1999. Panasonic Industrial Company also announced the immediate availability of the 8VSB TS output board (Model TTM1A), which outputs an 8-bit parallel transport stream (TS) from the RF input of broadcast DTV signals. This board will greatly help computer manufacturers, digital television/set-top box manufacturers and silicon developers accelerate their DTV product development.

With the hoped-for convergence of the TV and personal computer, Philips Semiconductors' Coney board is also designed to bridge these DTV capabilities allowing users to receive both the 18 ATSC formats and NTSC broadcast signals via the PC. Combining a TV front-end tuner with desktop video ICs, Philips' Coney board is now being used by Intel Corporation in the company's DTV broadcast trials. In conjunction with Intel's Pentium II processors and an accelerated graphics port, Philips claims that the reference design allows users to tune into DTV broadcasts and automatically download data and video via their PC.

"Intel believes that the Philips design will enable owners of high-end Intel Architecture-based PCs to economically add DTV functionality by using the Intel processor to decode the ATSC signal in software," said Mike Richmond, business unit manager, Intel's Broadcast Products Division. "PCs will play a significant role as a key platform for DTV. The Philips reference design gives PCs, OEMs and after-market suppliers an early entry into the emerging DTV market and makes low-cost DTV on PCs a practical reality for consumers."