CES: DisplayLink says USB 3.0 video coming soon

New chip to ship in 2010; could be in consumer electronic devices by next Christmas

DisplayLink Inc. has disclosed plans to ship a chip that enables video to run in "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 standard devices in the second half of 2010, which would allow its use in consumer products as early as next Christmas.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month, the semiconductor startup plans to demonstrate a USB 3.0 device running its chip that will transmit video at up to 4.8 gigabits-per-second, USB 3.0's maximum rate, said Dennis Crespo, executive vice-president of marketing and business development at DisplayLink.

The video transmission would be 10 times greater than the current USB 2.0 standard's maximum throughput of 480 megabits-per-second, and "faster than any video peripheral for PCs today," Crespo said, citing the still-popular VGA and DVI video adapters, as well as devices using the newer DisplayLink and HDMI formats.

DisplayLink already sells a USB 2.0 version of its chip. The current chip is used in laptop docking stations, pocket-sized video adapters and monitors.

Running Windows 7, DisplayLink's USB 2.0 chips enable games to be displayed at 60 frames-per-second and in high-def video at 26 to 27 frames per second, Crespo said. The USB 3.0 chip will be even faster, enabling monitors connected to laptops and netbooks to display HD video and 3D games without any flickers, he added.

Devices using the USB 3.0 version of the chip will appear at next year's CES, he said, though some may be available in time for the 2010 holiday season.

The upgraded video adapters and docking stations won't be useful, however, until laptops and netbooks arrive sporting USB 3.0. That should happen by Christmas, 2010, Crespo said, as Intel Corp. pushes notebook motherboards to manufacturers.

In 2009, Palo Alto, Calif.-based DisplayLink expects to ship about 2.3 million chips, more than double 2008's 1 million total, Crespo said.

DisplayLink counts Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Lenovo Group Ltd., Toshiba and 30-odd other hardware makers as customers. "The only company we don't have is Apple," Crespo said. "I think it shows that the market has accepted our technology."

On the other hand, Crespo acknowledges that sales to LCD display makers have been disapponting. Samsung is the sole manufacturer building USB video connectivity into their screens. Crespo attributed the poor sales to recessionary pressures leading monitor makers to keep costs down.

Analysts like Brian O'Rourke of In-Stat believe that the USB standard will soon start to catch on with LCD makers. He predicted that 70 million USB-enabled monitors will ship in 2013.

DisplayLink has also backed off from its once-ambitious plans to battle DisplayPort and HDMI in the PC market.

"We were trying to make USB video the primary solution for desktop machines, but the market has changed a bit towards notebooks and netbooks, so why fight the trend?" Crespo said. "We're now squarely focused on making USB video the solution for your second or third screen."

On the fight between DisplayPort and HDMI, Crespo said that the latter appears to be winning, judging by the number of requests DisplayLink gets from customers for USB-HDMI compatibility.

"HDMI seems to have picked up momentum," he said.

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