Sun buys Diba to attack set-top box market

Sun Microsystems is to buy Diba in a deal that takes it deep into the set-top box market.

Diba, is a two-year-old Silicon Valley pioneer in designing software and hardware for the world of "information appliances", futuristic devices such as handheld e-mail terminals, smart phones and mobile Web browsers. Many of the firm's staff previously worked for Oracle.

"We see this as very much a positive move," said Nigel Seed, VP of Europe for Diba. "The industry is consolidating very quickly with Microsoft buying WebTV and buying into [Internet telephony firm] Navitel, and Oracle buying Navio [a maker of Web browsers for small-format devices]. It was prettyy obvious that someone would come after us [and] Diba's work with consumer applications and Java is a wonderful combination. There is a huge market prospect but unless you find a very patient venture capitalist it's probably better to find a large, stable organisation."

Seed said that Diba's strength is in delivering a tight software architecture: "We produce small-footprint code. Code-bloat just drives up the price because of the processor, RAM, ROM and Flash memory you need."

Seed added that he expects the momentum for set-top boxes to quickly gather. "There's a huge pent-up demand for people to get on the Web and have e-mail and we expect to see set-top boxes based on our architecture available in the UK before Christmas."

The Diba-based systems will be based on a Motorola PowerPC and offer e-mail, Internet access and on-screen programming guides. Price is expected to duck £300.

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