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26 April, 2006 - 15:32 By Staff Reporter

Monitor wizard displays potential with first shipment

Yet another venture with roots in the now defunct AT&T Labs in Cambridge has burst onto the world stage with a major order for its first product.

Yet another venture with roots in the now defunct AT&T Labs in Cambridge has burst onto the world stage with a major order for its first product.

Following on from the likes of multi-tasking, home-working and hot-desking, fabless semiconductor company Newnham Research is hoping that ‘multi-screening’ is adopted as the next business buzz-word.

The 39-strong company has developed what it considers to be the enabling technology to connect a personal computer to multiple displays, making it the prime mover in what it is billing as the “next paradigm shift” in computing.

It forecasts that ‘multiple-monitor computing’ will take over from processing power as the main driver of productivity improvement.

Newnham, which has kept a relatively low profile up to now, has achieved the seemingly simple, but in actuality fiendishly difficult, feat of connecting a PC to a monitor via USB.

The ability to replace the bulky VGA cable with a ‘plug and display’ USB connection means that the average, non-techie consumer can hook up as many monitors to their PCs – each of them functioning independently – as their imagination can find a use for.

The two founders of the company have something of a track-record coming up with commercially successful inventions.

Seattle-based Martin King invented predictive text-messaging, while Quentin Stafford-Fraser, formerly of the AT&T lab in Cambridge is credited as a founding father of the webcam.

This latest accomplishment, a product the company calls USB NIVO, has already earned the company a significant design win with computer accessories giant, Kensington, with the first shipment currently making its way across the pacific from the foundry in the Far East to the customer in the US.

The order has triggered the first phase of a global expansion programme which will see Newnham double its Cambridge-based workforce of 34 over the next two years.

The company will also grow the Silicon Valley operation it established earlier this month and further expand a global presence which currently takes in representatives in Japan and Taiwan.

Kensington has incorporated the USB NIVO in a docking station for a laptop – technology brought into the mainstream by the iPod.

The product allows the user to attach a monitor, an ethernet network, microphone and speakers, and up to four USB peripherals, to their laptop via a single USB 2.0 connection.

The chief executive of Newnham, Michael Ledzion says that Kensington has already signed up a top three PC OEM for its new product, with significant retail volumes expected following the official launch of the product in May.

This is the first iteration of a technology that has much more to offer. It could potentially bring down a business’ IT spend by enabling zero client computing – allowing one whole department to use a single computer, connected to a host of individual displays, mice and keyboards.

Equally it can allow a single office worker to work smarter by opening up new display real estate – one dedicated to word processing, another to emailing and another to a web browser, for example.

Ledzion makes the point that chips are getting ever-faster, but there is only so much the average business can benefit from when office applications are fighting for screen space.

“Knowledge workers and businesses are increasingly finding that productivity improvements come from larger display work space rather than increased processor power,” he said.

The USB NIVO provides a breakthrough for fast and easy deployment of additional displays using USB.

“It breaks the cable bonds with an alternative that is plug-and-play, simple to use and high performance. It will bring multi-monitor applications into the mainstream.”

The market for docking stations for laptops could reach 12m units by 2008 while the secondary IT monitor market may hit 15m units by 2009.

Newnham raised $8m Series B funding last sJuly and does not plan to go back to the market for another year.

Ledzion said a flotation would ultimately be on the radar for the business, which only formed in 2003.


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