MWC - TI sees projectors as new camera phones

Texas Instruments has unveiled new versions of its chips for advanced mobiles.

The chip maker is eyeing growth in features such as mobile web surfing and video, even as the overall phone market shrinks. It expects the new projector chips to be ready for customers later this year and in commercial products in 2010.

Samsung has recently launched a phone, costing roughly $500, in South Korea using the first version of TI's pico-projector technology that beams video or photographs from a phone to any surface. Samsung also plans to sell a similar device in Europe but has not released pricing.

TI said interest in its first pico chip was so strong, it has invested heavily an upgraded version that is 20 per cent smaller, but can support brighter image projections with twice the picture resolution and more power efficiency than phones and dedicated mini-projectors with its current chips.

“We believe very strongly that it's the start of a new world that transforms business and social interactions,” said Frank Moizio, emerging business manager for TI's digital light projection (DLP) unit.

For example he said executives could quickly beam a presentation slide from their phone onto the tablecloth during a dinner meeting, or consumers could use projector phones to share photos or video with a group of friends, or in an emergency they could use the projector as a flashlight.

“It's been requested of us by mobile phone companies and consumer electronics companies all over the world,” said Moizio, who added that pico-projectors may be even more popular than cellphone cameras, which grew from 4 million shipments in 2001 to more than 700 million in 2007.

“We see no reason for this not to follow a path similar to the camera phone,” he said.

TI' has also released a new version of its OMAP chip range, which it says will enable handsets to download Web pages 10 times more quickly than current possible, while supporting six times higher video resolution, 10 times better graphics performance and six times longer audio play time.

The chip has three times better computing performance than its own OMAP 3 chip, which is now being built into phones and devices such as mobile media players. It will also improve on the audio playtime and browsing speed of OMAP 3, TI said.

While TI now trails Qualcomm in baseband chips, the brains of the phone, it is ahead in application chips, the wireless market in which it is now investing most heavily.

One key win for OMAP 3 includes its use in the Palm Pre, which is expected to be one of the strongest iPhone competitors.

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