In an era when big business would seem to dominate the video headlines, and with the AT&T brand re-grouped and poised to begin its ultimate and inevitable battle with cable-TV, it's surprising how much room still exists for small-time players.
Today, the ability of small fabless startups to develop truly innovative system on chip video ICs or circuit boards based on their "secret sauce" intellectual property (software and architecture) is extraordinary.
At the Texas Instruments Developer Conference in Dallas earlier this month, the huge chipmaker made a bow to small developers, by introducing the "ASP" program -- Authorized Software Provider. It's a program for simplifying and consolidating software that's commonly needed for video applications of DSP, including numerous codecs to decode and encode compressed video. TI has developed a considerable amount of software that it makes available to big customers to support DSP sales, but has previously made smaller customers scramble through a maze of third-party referrals to assemble the multiple codecs needed for a typical consumer video application.
TI has always perceived itself as a hardware company, and this program, though essentially selling TI-developed software, is still built around supporting rather than competing with the third-party software developers who may have their own in-house developed DSP software to sell (such as codecs optimized for specific applications). That's why some of TI's most well-known third party developers have been chosen as the initial vendors for the TI software, including ATEME, eInfochips, eSOL, Ingenient, Ittiam Systems, Logic Product Development, MPC Data and Wintech.
TI has insisted on some interesting pro-small developer terms from these vendors, such as the requirement that they must offer free trial versions of the software, include a minimum of four hours of support with each purchase, and offer a variety of published licensing plans that can provide several pricing options to the under-1,000 units crowd. That last point means you can get an idea of what all the codecs you need will cost without having to first negotiate.
For engineers at small companies developing video designs around DSP it may make life a little easier. When a huge company like TI creates a program like this, it also speaks on a broader level to the vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of the video design industry.