SAN FRANCISCO—Intel Corp. said Wednesday (March 9) it acquired Replay Technologies, an Israeli startup focused on 3D video for sporting events. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition marks the latest in a string of moves by Intel to diversify beyond its core market of PC processors and is seen by at least one analyst as perhaps its biggest step yet away from hardware toward application level technology.
Replay Technologies, founded in 2011, is headquartered in Tel Aviv and has U.S. operations in Dallas and Newark, Calif. The company has developed a proprietary video format, dubbed freeD, which uses high-resolution cameras and compute intensive graphics to enable viewers to see sporting events from every angle.
In a blog posting on Intel’s website, Wendell Brooks, Intel’s senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions, said Replay Technologies would focus on its existing business and advancing its technology “with Intel to deliver faster freeD processing and new features like the ability to manipulate and edit personalized content.”
Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) has been collaborating with Replay Technologies since 2013 to help the firm optimize its interactive video content on Intel platforms, Brooks said.
Television coverage of the recent NBA All-Star Weekend showcased freeD technology using 28 ultra-high definition cameras positioned around the arena and connected to Intel-based servers, Brooks wrote.
Motion capture of Replay Technologies' video demo. Source: Replay Technologies
“By offering sweeping views of top plays from virtually any angle, the freeD format optimized with Intel technology is allowing people to experience NBA All-Star like never before,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement released last month.
The acquisition by Intel is the latest move by the world’s biggest semiconductor company to diversify its business in the wake of declining sales of PCs, still the largest market for its products. In recent times Intel has invested in growth areas that leverage its microprocessing power, such as drones.
“I don’t think [the acquisition] is a bad move for Intel, because right now, especially when you are looking at slow growth rates for semiconductors, everyone is looking for ways to expand their total available market,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, in an interview with EE Times. “Everyone is looking at getting into new market segments with the products they have or offering new products.”
Jim McGregor, Tirias Research
McGregor said the acquisition of Replay Technologies is interesting because it brings Intel closer to the application level than the hardware company traditionally ventures. Intel has been investing heavily in its RealSense 3D camera technology, McGregor added, and the acquisition likely includes intellectual property that “enhances everything that Intel is doing” in that realm.
”You have to wonder if this is a broader step by Intel to move beyond chips,” McGregor added. “It’s not like they haven’t done this before, but this could be interesting if they are looking to really license and application level technology.”
He added, “We’ve seen Intel in the past go into other hardware devices from webcams to actually doing systems for communications to doing motherboards and PC chassis, but it’s always been more at the device level.”
McGregor drew parallels between the Replay Technologies acquisition and OnCue, Intel’s failed effort to start a streaming video TV service. Intel ultimately sold the technology and assets associated with OnCue to Verizon in 2014.
But the Replay acquisition, he said, “is more of an application layer technology that could be licensed to companies developing technologies or developing applications or looking to leverage what Replay already has.”
Companies such as Apple and Amazon have been successful in spanning “the vertical value chain” to increase their market potential, McGregor noted. “It’s not unreasonable to expect semiconductor companies like Intel to do that,” he said. “However, semiconductor companies haven’t done that too successfully in the past.”
—Dylan McGrath covers the semiconductor industry for EE Times.