National Semiconductor puts ‘system on a chip’

Hoping to take advantage of what analysts say will be a booming market for Internet appliances over the next several years, National Semiconductor Corp. on Monday unveiled a family of new “system-on-a-chip” silicon solutions aimed at three specific markets.

National’s new Geode lineup offers Internet appliance manufacturers a CPU, memory controller, video processor, and system cache all on a single chip, according to Mike He, a spokesman at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

Far from a new idea, consolidating a number of computing features on a single chip is a recent trend shared by rival Intel, with its StongARM processor.

With its Geode line, National Semiconductor is aiming to help reduce costs for manufacturers who build Internet appliances, as well as lower the requirements for power consumption and increase performance reliability, according to officials.

The Geode SC1200 is targeted for set-top boxes that provide interactive programming, Web browsing, and e-mail capabilities.

The Geode SC2200 is targeted for thin-client computing, in which the system is streamlined to operate in a single mode, such as retail checkout and airport reservation terminals.

The Geode SC2300 is targeted for mobile devices, in which power conservation and “instant on” capability is becoming more of a necessity.

Each chip in the Geode family sells for less than US$50 for lots of 10,000 units, He said.

According to Cahners In-Stat Group, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm, demand for simplified computing devices will push sales of online Internet appliances past 37 million units by 2004.