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Motorola Develops Another 5000 Box

Motorola Inc. is developing a new set-top box that boasts 300 megahertz of processing power, up to 128 megabits of DRAM and can support three-dimensional gaming, on-demand music and video, high-speed Web access and network games.

The box is the "Streamaster-5000," it costs between $450 and $500 in volume shipments and it's being built by Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector for global telephone companies and the Enron Corp.-Blockbuster Entertainment U.S. video-on-demand joint venture.

The set-top is an outgrowth of Motorola's work years ago with the telco video venture Tele-TV, prior to Motorola's purchase of General Instrument Corp.

"We received requests for a full turnkey solution from service providers," said Jackie Beauchamp, director and general manager of the semiconductor unit's Multimedia Systems Division. "That evolved into the Streamaster-5000. The semiconductor groups provides the software, design and integration services."

The current Streamaster-which is being deployed by Blockbuster, Canadian telco Aliant Telecom and Australian telco TransACT Capital Communications-carries a 54 MHz processor and DRAM or flash memory between 32 and 128 megabytes.

The set-top supports two- and three-dimensional gaming, general MIDI music, Dolby Digital audio, Spatializer, MPEG-1 (Moving Picture Expert Group) with stop, start, pause and rewind VOD capabilities, MP3 playback, Web access and electronic-mail applications.

The next generation Streamaster box-in addition to support for 300 MHz processing-will include a DVD drive, at least 30 gigabytes of hard-drive space and MPEG-4 capabilities, Beauchamp said.

Unlike the mid-1990s, when telcos flirted with and then abandoned video, Beauchamp believes companies are serious this time around.

"They have competition offering video, voice and data services," she said. The difference from five years ago is that telcos stand to lose voice and data subs.

But "we see the movement in the European and Asian marketplace happening a lot faster," she said.

Motorola said Aliant and TransAct have ordered tens of thousands of boxes.

Motorola licensed Microware Systems Corp.'s "OS-9" operating system to run the set-top and VM Labs'"NUON Technology" media processor.

NUON handles the audio and video decoding. It's the same media processor imbedded in Samsung and Toshiba DVD players, Beauchamp said.

The Streamaster supports both asynchronous DSL and VDSL video deployments. Aliant, for instance, is deploying ADSL, while TransAct is deploying VDSL. The box also supports either ADSL, VDSL or Ethernet and even ATM modems, Beauchamp said.

Aliant is using Cisco Systems Inc.'s Video Networking Systems for its video-processing and iMagicTV's DTV manager software.

"Motorola's Streamaster-5000 will help us deliver a full package of interactive TV services to our customers," Mike MacNeil, director of consumer broadband services at Aliant, said in a statement. "Streamaster is the 'all-in-one' solution that our customers are demanding."