Projector chip next big thing for smartphones?

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters)—Texas Instruments Inc has unveiled new versions of its chips for advanced mobile features, including mini-projector technology it sees as the next big thing after the now ubiquitous cell phone camera.

The chip maker is eyeing growth in features such as mobile web surfing and video, even as the overall phone market shrinks. It expects the new projector chips—unveiled on Monday at the Mobile World Congress showcase in Barcelona—to be ready for customers later this year and in commercial products in 2010.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd recently launched a phone, costing roughly $500, in South Korea using the first version of TI's pico-projector technology that beams video or photographs from a phone to any surface. Samsung also plans to sell a similar device in Europe but has not released pricing.

TI said interest in its first pico chip was so strong, it has invested heavily in an upgraded version that is 20 percent smaller, but can support brighter image projections with twice the picture resolution and more power efficiency than phones and dedicated mini-projectors with its current chips.

"We believe very strongly that it's the start of a new world that transforms business and social interactions." said Frank Moizio, emerging business manager for TI's Digital Light Projection (DLP) unit.

For example he said executives could quickly beam a presentation slide from their phone onto the tablecloth during a dinner meeting, or consumers could use projector phones to easily share photos or video with a group of friends, or in an emergency they could use the projector as a flashlight.

"It's been requested of us by mobile phone companies and consumer electronics companies all over the world," said Moizio, who added that pico-projectors may be even more popular than cell phone cameras, which grew from 4 million shipments in 2001 to more than 700 million in 2007. "We see no reason for this not to follow a path similar to the camera phone," he said.

(Editing by Andre Grenon)

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