Equator Centers on Software-Based Silicon


Equator Technologies Inc. has unveiled a family of software-driven broadband processors designed to operate inside set-tops at multiple frequencies and drive such advanced applications as video-on-demand and video conferencing.

Instead of handling upgrades via hardware replacements, Equator's approach is to update its silicon through software downloads as new MPEG (Moving Pictures Expert Group) standards and other codecs emerge.

Equator's product, the MAP-CA, operates at four speeds that range from 256 megahertz to 297 MHz. That flexibility will allow the privately-held company to give its manufacturing customers a range of processing power designed to handle different or more complicated tasks, said company president and CEO Avi Katz.

Depending on the processor's firepower and the volume of chips ordered, the MAP-CA is priced at $40 to $100 apiece.

Equator unveiled the MAP-CA about a year ago, promising that its software approach "is going to drive a stake in the heart of the hardwired devices and just obsolete them all at once," company co-founder John Setel O'Donnell said at the time.

The MAP-CA was more of a concept than a product last year, admitted Katz. "We are ramping up production today," he said.

At present, Equator has yet to announce any set-top box customers for its silicon. Katz said the company might announce its first cable customers by next month's National Association of Broadcasters convention.

"We will move (the MAP-CA) to advanced set-tops by this Christmas, and build on that momentum into next year," Katz said.

Equator finds itself in a highly competitive and well-heeled field dominated by hardwired incumbents such as Broadcom Corp., C-CUBE Microsystems Inc. and Conexant Systems Inc. Philips Semiconductors, meanwhile, has developed a software-based chip set for cable boxes.