I had the opportunity to talk with Robert Nalesnik, Senior Director,
Mobile Multimedia at Broadcom about what is happening, both at Broadcom
and in the mobile industry in general. He shared some of his insight,
which I wanted to pass along to you.
Broadcom's general strategy in the mobile market is a two pronged
approach. They address things in a vertical, by developing individual
chips, and horizontal, by developing integrated combination chips,
manner. This strategy allows them to leverage the technical
capabilities from the vertical prong to fuel the horizontal, leading to
higher penetration into handset vendors.
To date there are a number of different combination chips available.
Most of the devices integrate two or three different wireless
capabilities together, such as BlueTooth with FM, 802.11n with
BlueTooth and FM, or GPS with BlueTooth and FM. In theory Broadcom
could develop a single chip with all of the wireless features that they
offer, but from a size and cost point of view it would not make as much
sense. The different variations provide flexibility for the cell phone
creators to match the desired target market and cost and helps to
reduce the amount of interference that is inherent with hosting
Broadcom has introduced a number of these different variant chips over
the past year. Robert had a difficult time choosing the one that he
believed was the most innovative or market changing, but did concede
that the combination chip that Broadcom created, which combined
BlueTooth with FM, was very innovative because it was their first foray
into the merged space and offered more features at a lower cost.
HD in Phones
More and more phones are offering 720p resolution for high definition
movies. This is something that, to some extent, perplexes me. The
screen size on cell phones is, at most 3", which does not lend itself
well with the need for high resolution videos. So I asked why this is a
trend that is happening.
According to Robert, there are three reasons for including high
definition capabilities. First, as storage space is increasing to the
point where you can store almost anything you want, the cell phone is
becoming a portable set top box, allowing users to carry content
anywhere. When combined with an HDMI output on the phone, which is
starting to pick up, you can watch an HD show in your hotel room
without requiring any other components.
The second reason is content compatibility. When users are downloading
content from the Internet they want to be able to pick up and go. As
more content is being hosted at 720p, cell phones would have to down
convert the video for phone compatibility, which can take time and slow
the user down. By being able to play HD content this saves a step in
the content transfer.
Finally is the concept of better video recording capabilities
integrated on the phone. If asked today if a user would record a
special moment, like a wedding, on their cell phone, I would guess that
many would not be willing to risk the low quality. But as quality
increases, by being able to record in HD, it becomes something that
people would be willing to at least try. With the ability to record in
HD, playback is essentially free since the processing chip can already
perform at that resolution.
One trend that Robert is watching is operating systems, and the
companies that support them. Simultaneously you have the open source OS
from Google, the Symbian foundation, and Microsoft. There are different
features offered and different ways that they interface. The idea is
that the public will get an opportunity to develop applications and
programs that the original designers would not have the time to write,
or may not have even considered due to the sheer number of different
programmers. It will be a question of whether these systems can get the
mass amount of support, both from programmers and general users, to
overtake other solutions in the industry.
There are some inherent threats with open source. Rogue applications
and viruses could be deployed as there is no quality assurance at this
point. This increases the importance of security. Open OS phones have
multiple different security methods, including hardware, security in
the OS and other applications installed that try to prevent malicious
software, but that may not be sufficient.
One thing that Apple's App Store does well is prevent publically
developed applications that could harm the hardware by performing
quality assurance. Once a few of these malicious programs do enter the
market for open system OS phones there will be a need for trusted third
parties to validate the programs.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.