NEW YORK – So, who are the unsuspecting victims of Intel Corp.'s plans, publicly disclosed this week, to “wind down” its digital TV SoC business?
Rick Doherty, co-founder and director of Envisioneering Group, identifies the real victims as “more than 20 Chinese ODMs, all hoping to ride Google TV’s coat tails.” These companies were developing add-ons to LCD display units for Google TV. “They were getting lots of help from Intel to prototype [them], and approach U.S. and global retailers,” said Doherty. “They were all headed for a CES 2012 launch.”
Meanwhile, when asked which part of the CE business Intel is getting out of, an Intel spokesperson said: “the retail [digital TV] business.” While adding that Intel will continue to work with a few partners “on a case-by-case basis,” she declined to name names of such “partners.”
For Intel, ditching the digital TV SoC business was “a tough decision,” but it creates a clear path to align its consumer business with “Ultrabook devices, smartphones and tablets,” which the Intel spokesperson now describes as “top corporate imperatives.”
With this decision, Intel no longer needs to get caught up with, or getting distracted by, what might turn out to be fierce price competition on the digital TV SoC market. Intel is now wisely shifting its CE silicon strategy to “the gateway and IP set-top-box media processor businesses.” Meanwhile, the company “will wind down its operations in the Digital TV business,” the spokesperson added.
So, what’s left of Intel’s CE business?
“The IP set-top media processor business” and “the gateway business,” says Intel. These remaining CE businesses will be folded into Intel’s tablet organization headed up by Doug Davis.
By “IP set-top media processor business,” Intel means “SoC silicon and hardware designed for high-quality digital set-top boxes where content delivery is via IP networks. Clearly, Intel’s primary focus is on IP networks. Forget about traditional terrestrial, satellite or cable broadcast technologies.
In the “gateway (also known as cable) business,” Intel will continue to build SoC silicon and software for cable modems, cable gateways, Fiber-to-the-home gateways, retail IP gateways, and multimedia terminal adapters. The cable modem technology Intel acquired from TI, for example, belongs to this gateway business category, and “will be part of the expanded charter of the Netbook and Tablet Group under Doug Davis,” explained the Intel spokesperson.
Doherty suspects that almost every major TV maker, Sony, Samsung, LG and Vizio included, who started with Intel SoC chips for their Google TVs, are now likely to pursue ARM-based solutions for TV screens. Intel’s 4200 series SoCs, which were on display as recently as the Intel Developers Forum last month, according to Doherty, are the ones most likely to be “wound down.”
What about so-called synergies between tablets and Intel’s remaining CE business? Doherty said, “Intel could discount these CE 4200 SoCs for tablets…but they are still power- hungry.”
How Intel might succeed in the tablet and IP TV delivery segments is far from clear. Intel is starting “years after NVidia, Qualcomm, Apple A5, even Marvell (they are in $299 Vizio tablet) and other ARM core solutions,” Doherty observed.
I'm as baffled by this news as I was about the hoopla surrounding GoogleTV. None of it makes any sense to me.
Everyone knows, by now, that a machine with an IP stack and web browser can be used to watch and listen to streaming content from the Internet. There is no need to pretend that a special or different box is needed for this to work on a TV set or to watch content meant for TV. It's simply not true. At best, maybe some slightly tweaked search engines can help, but even that is far from being mandatory.
The other aspect of this is, and it ain't just me saying so, go ask those who rely on their TV content from sources OTHER THAN satellite or cable. Like me, for instance. What you will no doubt discover is that the Internet, terrestrial DTV, and DVDs, are the most common sources these folk use. Combined, that is. So to dismiss the importance of the terrestrial tuner, as part of that equation, is simply foolish.
The Intel part I use for my setup is the CPU of the PC. Intel has been makiung those for a very long time. I doubt they want to get out of that business. So honestly, I don't know what the rukus is about.
And another thing. The "connected TVs" I have seen so far, not to mention "connected" BluRay players, are very compromised. It should not come as a surprise that the feature isn't popular, or sometimes never even used.
If the TV-oriented SoC solutions did not provide, at least, a thin client function, but instead some abbreviated Internet access, then I suggest this would turn off a huge portion of Internet-savvy consumers.
As far as I'm concerned, TV manufacturers can do what I did, but more integrated, all contained in the TV, and at much lower cost than having a separate PC. For that, any deliberately crippled TV SoC solution is probably not the answer anyway.
I'm not surprised at all by this. DTV SoCs are very price-sensitive, and the integrated PHY becomes problematic. Do you make an SoC with a 8VSB/QAM PHY for the U.S. TV market? Do you make one with a DVB-T/DVB-C PHY for the European market? What about China and their unique cable & terrestrial PHYs? And satellite PHYs are an altogether different animal.
I don't think Intel or anyone else could afford to include a "universal PHY" in any of these SoCs -- the added cost would take too much away from what are already thin margins.
But they have all this IP in media processors, decoders for every flavor of digital audio & video, so why not make an SoC based on that? Replace all those unique market-specific PHYs with a gigabit Ethernet interface and go sell it to the IP set-top box and IP gateway guys.
This is not a new idea or strategy, except maybe at Intel.
I just wonder what will happen to the Libit engineers who were bought by TI and then by Intel. Once upon a time, they had some cable modem business, before Broadcom cornered the market on that piece of silicon. That's some great digital comms engineering talent that is going to get re-purposed.
Good point. Actually that was exactly the reason why I asked Intel what happens to the cable modem technology Intel acquired from TI. Intel says that it belongs to this gateway business category, and “will be part of the expanded charter of the Netbook and Tablet Group under Doug Davis."
Nice post! I just wonder what will happen to the Libit engineers who were bought by TI and then by Intel. Once upon a time, they had some cable modem business, before Broadcom cornered the market on that piece of silicon. more info at: http://news.top-shoppingmall.com/
All these days i heard news of Intel buying and expanding. It is hard to see that they are closing a division.But sooner or later when the DTV market picks up due to some new king of invention with a great deamnd which will be more than the demand for CPU's what Intel will do? I feel that they could have kept this division and fine tune it with minimum expenditure.
Better luck next time on consumer electronics.
.. Look at the IDF presentation, all about laptop, transistor, security, and power. Consumer electronics is not even in the radar....Wait till TVs start browsing web pages. ARM will expand all its dominace
Good point. Intel seems not to think long term. There seems to be no internal innovation process. They are buying all the world and they are also want to sell. If they do not have a coherent plan, they will miss opportunities. They need to have a real plan, not buy and sale hack strategy, hoping one will work.
Agreed! That's what the CE industry should have been doing all along, when they started to introduce Internet connected BluRay players and TVs.
Whether built into TVs, or provided via a STB like a BluRay player, for some reason, the CE types preferred to give users a very limited experience. For instance, only a handful of web sites are accessible. But it's too late for that. Consumers have become too Internet savvy to be blown away by such limited options, is my contention.
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