"The low end of the market re- quires complete hardware and firm- ware," Edgerton said. He predicted a quick ramp for the ST 3600 series once the video software is ready to ship, an event expected this quarter.
Analysts pointed to two advantages SigmaTel may have as it tries to win slots at Apple: It has a strong patent portfolio, and its chips have a reputation for being power-efficient, with longer battery life than some rival MP3 silicon. Moreover, SigmaTel has worked with Apple previously, for the iPod Shuffle. (SigmaTel's management team was in Hong Kong last week in advance of its first-quarter earnings announcement, slated for tomorrow, and thus was unavailable for comment, a company spokeswoman said.)
Tough times for an icon
Apple's decision to switch media processor vendors comes as analysts are lowering worldwide shipment forecasts for the iPod (search www.eetimes.com for article ID: 184429057).
The biggest challenge for Apple's iconic player is "international expansion," said In-Stat analyst Stephanie Guza. The iPod has little market presence beyond the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan, Guza said. With a host of cut-rate MP3 players available in world markets, Apple must set a more-aggressive pricing strategy at the low end to compete.
At the other extreme, with the video iPod having "revitalized the higher-end MP3 players," Apple must look to develop added high-end functionality, said Greg Quirk, an analyst at Semiconductor Insights.
Video iPod taps PortalPlayer for audio codec and control but uses a Broadcom video processor.