A chip company can walk away from smartphone sockets and still ride the wave of a rising smartphone tide. How to do that? Ask Ambarella.
HD video cameras have become so much smaller these days. They can be
mounted on a bike helmet or embedded in goggles or even worn on a vest
by war correspondents.
Chris Day, Ambarella's vice president of marketing
and business development, remembers one of the first customer meeting he
had when he joined the company a few years ago. The customer wanted
to know what percentage of these tiny sports cameras might become
wireless. Day guesstimated about 20 percent at that time. Day told me
last week, “Well, I actually had no idea. But I didn’t want to give them
a number that may sound too small to them…so I just said, 20 percent.”
It turns out literally 100 percent of those wearable sports cameras today come with wireless features.
importantly, the point of these tiny cameras going wireless is that
users can now use a smartphone as viewfinder and monitor. “You can’t see
what you are recording unless you have a display,” said Day. In other
words, consumers can now do wireless preview, playback and upload of
still and videos to a smartphone (or to the Internet)--all via WiFi.
the end, keeping Ambarella--which went public last October--healthy
today is a camera business that exploits the proliferation of
smartphones. How cool is that?
Ambarella announced at the CES a
new camera system-on-chip, called A9, featuring support for the new 4K
ultra HD video standard, advanced fast-action video features and full
In addition to 4K video resolution at 30
frames per second, the A9 supports high frame-rate video for capturing
fast-action sports with 1080p video at 120 frames per second or 720p
video at 240 frames per second. Higher frame rates enabled in the A9 SoC
would be perfect for capturing fast action and playing back in smooth
slow motion (i.e. Think Asian customers who want to review their golf
Ambarella takes pride in the solid video coding and image processing technology the company’s team has developed over the years.
renowned engineering executives like Ambarella’s CTO, Les Kohn, who was a
fellow at Sun developing Sun’s UltraSPARC, and Ambarella’s executive
vice president Didier LeGall, co-founder and CTO of C-Cube, “We know how
to do rocket-science stuff when it comes to microcode, algorithms and
computational optimizations,” said Day. He added, “Our claim-to-fame is
that our chips are extremely low power.”
represents a new generation of Silicon Valley companies who learned to
leverage the power of both Asian and Silicon Valley expertise.
Ambarella’s US team focused on core architecture of the video chip and
its algorithms, Ambarella’s Taiwan team is responsible for system-level
software for SDK. Ambarella’s Chinese team in Shanghai is focused on the
development of Linux and Android-based IP cameras, while its Shenzhen
team is responsible for dealing with local developers and local
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