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Intel to Buy Digital Display Technology

Intel is returning to the digital display world with an agreement to purchase Oplus Technologies.

Oplus, out of Yokneam, Israel, is a privately held fabless semiconductor company that makes chips and related software for flat-panel plasma and LCD-TVs, projection systems, LCD multi-function monitors and emerging digital display applications.

The company, which has approximately 100 employees, will continue selling products under the Oplus brand name and will report to the Intel Consumer Electronics Group. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Pending regulatory approval, the purchase helps replace Intel's failed attempts at introducing its liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) technology -- a type of LCD in which the crystals and electrodes are sandwiched between polarized glass plates. Intel spokesman Bill Calder characterized LCoS as too expensive to produce and focused on too narrow of a product line, namely rear-projection televisions.

"What Oplus does is the intelligence within the image and the enhancement of the image in all types of displays. So this is a broader market opportunity," Calder told internetnews.com. "The other benefit is that they also work in standards-based silicon, which is closer to our core business than LCoS."

Best known for dominance in computers and servers, Intel has been working steadily on its digital home initiative, where it can advance its technology for a converged world of computers and displays. Intel said it will use Oplus' technology to provide chips for a wide range of consumer electronics devices, including set-top-boxes, digital media recorders and digital televisions. The technology will compete directly with similar ones from NEC-Mitsubishi Electronics, Samsung and Sony.

Calder said Oplus' technology would not replace any graphics processors in PCs or servers, but it will let Intel talk more with digital television manufacturers.

"Forget the PC; there is convergence happening in a number of devices, and at the core of all of it is silicon," Calder said. "As they are networked, it is no longer about projecting the image. Eventually televisions will have network connectivity, and that is where we will have a key advantage.

Oplus currently sells three lines of video processors -- Rembrandt, Matisse, Monet -- targeted at digital display manufacturers and other partners like STMicroelectronics, ViewSonic, JVC, and BenQ. Calder said Intel would continue those contracts and approach even more of the market. Oplus also has three design centers in Osaka, Japan, Hsinchu, Taiwan, and State College, Penn., which Intel is expected to continue to support.

Intel is expected to discuss the Oplus acquisition further at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco next week.