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Ligos Gets Funding and Looks at MPEG Future

Years ago, capturing MPEG video to your desktop computer required a fast processor and an MPEG card to handle the encoding and decoding duties. Today things are different. With all the new high speed Pentium and Athlon desktop PCs, capturing MPEG can now be done only with software.

We've come a long way, baby.

The company leading this charge is Ligos Technology (http://www.ligos.com), a company that focuses on creating MPEG video encoding solutions.

Last week, Ligos received $18 million in a private funding round led by by Mercantile Capital Partners and other investors like Intel Capital, and Thomas Weisel Partners. Ligos has even licensed MPEG and DV technologies from Intel Architecture Labs.

Although the company has been low key until now, Peter Forman, president and chief executive officer of Ligos suggests that this is their coming out party. "If there is a product for video that does MPEG and if it uses MPEG-2, it uses our technology," says Forman. Hardware and software vendors like ATI, MGI Software Avid, Dazzle and Matrox all use Ligos technology.

Ligos was founded in 1997 by developer Integrated Data Systems (IDS) (http://www.ids-net.com) of Georgia. Currently its products include LSX-MPEG (an AVI to MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 encoder) and its GoMotion SDK for real-time MPEG encoding.

At this year's NAB show, Forman says Ligos demonstrated time shifting applications on a PC, where essentially a computer encodes and decodes an MPEG stream in real time. "Our software stood side by side with a Tivo box [which uses an MPEG card] and had better video quality," he claims.

But isn't hardware MPEG encoding better, while taking the brunt off the computer's CPU? Forman doesn't think so. "[Hardware encoding] is not automatically better than software," he says. "Being able to provide encoding in software only will open up a market opportunity." He points out that with software, there is no inventory, no parts and no returns. You just pay Ligos a royalty to use the software and you can have MPEG encoding (as long as you have something like a P3 500 mHz computer). It's also more flexible, he points out. You don't have to purchase a new card--just painlessly upgrade the software.

When asked if Ligos wants to make its own editing software and get into applications, Forman says that's not in their near future. "Our approach is to have a great solution rather than to replace things like Avid and Ulead."

Forman says last week's round of financing will move the company "into a whole new level". Interestingly, he's looking for a solution to take digital video (DV) input (through a 1394 connection) and transcode it into MPEG-2 in real time. There's also work with MPEG-4 in the company's future and a big jump into the appliance or firmware market.

Who knows, TiVo may some day end up being a customer of Ligos.

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