Archive for the ‘Semiconductor’ Category

TV – Quo vadis?

May 23, 2010

A few events bring us to question if we are witnesses of TV turning point  – TV quo vadis (where are you going)? I don’t intend to paint a complete landscape, instead I am picking hastily a few facts to probe the weight of existence of such turning point at the present.

The changes are multiple, at one end the user experience, others being the technology, the distribution of content and nonetheless a massive change of the business model.

I think that I have enough examples of experiences that attempted to change the TV as we know it today. To enumerate just a few of them like WebTV, AppleTV, TiVO, all these past experiences shaped the subsequent product definitions and prepared users for the next gadgets. And more recently we see an extraordinary attempt: this time Google TV. Although I am not seeing Google platform as the unique contender still it is interesting to watch the entire phenomena of emerging innovative TV platform.

Present Facts

Let’s probe some of the facts.

Last year Intel bombastically claimed “Future is TV-shaped, says Intel” when announcing its push into the TV business of its CE4100 device; if you want t0 check an overview of Intel’s architecture read “Intel’s Atom heads for digital TVs, STBs“.

This week (more precise on May 20th 2010) I found out that Google launches smart TV service, and I don’t think this is a fade marketing campaign. It seems to me it is a serious attempt to bring change and make a profit out of it. It is not a single player, it is a team of corporations with multiple competencies that allied in deploying a profitable solution.

Let’s take a look at some of the Google’s declarations: “There is no better medium to reach a wider and broader audience than TV” (for Google advertising business); “We can make your TV into a games console, a photo viewer or a music player“. The TVs and boxes will also use Android and will rely on an Intel microprocessor, with the partnership of Sony TV manufactures, LG peripherals and STB.  A critical editorial of the Engadget on Google TV highlights the shortcomings of the demo, which somehow it’s not surprising considering the lack of knowledge of some partners in the TV domain. It is important to highlight the distribution of the content over the Internet. Not a totally novel idea, it is impressive to see the alignment and massive value proposition for a TV product; although  specifications are not fully disclosed yet, something will soon emerge. It is interesting to follow the announcement (all of them issued on March 20 2010) – Google and DISH Network collaborate to develop integrated multichannel TV and web platform.

We should not forget the observers which might play their role in the future in determining the deployment success: Reuters records “CBS Corp (CBS.N), for one, is keeping an eye on Google TV. “As content owners we applaud innovation,” said Zander Lurie, senior vice president of strategic development at CBS.
“On the business model side, we are more prudent about how we evaluate new technologies and how deep we dive in,” he said.”

Google TV is not the only recent announcement, recently TiVo and Technicolor Team Up to Offer Integrated PVR Solution: “As the convergence of linear television and broadband continues to take hold, operators need to deploy advanced television solutions that are cost efficient and ready for rapid deployment”; “As one of the leading set-top box providers in the world, operators were increasingly looking to Technicolor to help address this need. To manage this, we selected TiVo’s truly comprehensive solution for marrying TV and Internet content within a single, user-friendly and intuitive interface. TiVo’s vast understanding of what television viewers want, coupled with our expertise in manufacturing hardware and the platform porting work we are now doing, will be a major advantage for operators looking to leapfrog the competition.

The idea that I want to emphasize is that something is changing in TV business. Competitors are numerous  and it is hard to tell if Google TV partnership will be successful or adopted by the market, I concur with Barton Crockett quoted by Reuters “even if Google TV fails, someone will figure this out”.


The demo has shortcomings which I see as  mere results of a complex problem to solve. I am not interested further to explore what those are, instead I prefer looking into potentials of this offer.

Players Interests and their Roles

Let’s try to understand some of the players interests in this Google TV and the part they play:

  1. Google is in the advertising business and it is looking for additional channels of distribution  other than desktops, therefore it is targeting also TV for further expansion. Furthermore Google is a also a content provider with its YouTube. Its overall weight allows Google to sponsor emergent ecosystems. Nevertheless Google provides the Android software platform to attract business partners and software developers. Android platform is Google’s honey pot promising free and rapid development. Google requires traction to reach  TV also.
  2. Logitech and Sony are traditionally integrators/providers of TV or STB devices, and they are interested in filling their pipeline with new products. Historically Logitech was targeting PC peripherals, with TV emerging as a new target now, having more peripherals for it will facilitate to increase usage for it. With Sony targeting premium market share with its futuristic products, I am not sure if anything has changed in their plans.
  3. Intel is a traditional manufacturer of CPU ASIC and its current PC market is hardly sufficient to maintain or even provide the growth anymore. There are an increasing number of features to be integrated in the hardware (like video, 3D Gfx) while keeping the cost reasonable. There is huge computation power and capabilities to what was for the previous decade TV solutions. Intel is fighting for its reputation competing with ARM and its partners (TI, Qualcomm, ST, … ). It is advantageous for the software developing process purposes to skip the cross-compilation step (as it might be for ARM). The reason is that this will bring more and even cheaper software developers to participate in building applications for this platform, although having the Android virtual machine waters down some of this advantage. A TV / STB might not have the power consumption constraints of the mobile and therefore ARM’s perceived power consumption performance advantage is fading in TV.
  4. Dish Network might be worried by the Torrent phenomena, a cannibalizing competitor of its market. It’s current base of customers which needs to keep it content. With its applications and services, Dish Network provides the reach for this future platform of the users .
  5. Adobe partnered vigorously with Google to prove its Flash technology is nothing what Apple is complaining about. More devices carrying this technology there will bring more revenue for Adobe as well.

However, all these announced partnership will not preclude others to jump in, like more ASIC manufacturers, more TV and STB vendors, and more content providers.

More thoughts

Ideas are great, technology is great but all of this is not sufficient. It is necessary to come-up with business models that bring together an ecosystem to have the ideas, technology deployable and finally distributed to the masses of users. Today is easier to have a change as the TV business might end being in a crisis similar to what we see for published or music business. There is eagerness of certain companies to pursue new products as their past portfolio is drying, others because their business model is not actual anymore and some are just expanding their reach.

Consumers are evolving in their level of expectation, they are more aware of their expectations, more knowledgeable and more curious to explore new TV usage. The user is more active in his selection and he is not always happy with the content broadcasted, and with what is paying for it. We see the emergence of new providers like Hulu and Netflix because consumers mood is changing.

What would be needed to be  possible to become successful? There might be a couple reasons.

Large partnership is required to  push major change of technology usage to the market. It is not possible for a single company to pursue such major change because of the hegh level of complexities and perhaps it is not allowed by the rest of the traditionally ecosystem to have a single company reaping the entire outcome.

First of all better technology are supporting more complex features at lower costs. There are many off the shelf components that could become the basis for a platform, it is a commoditization period.  Google will bring commoditization  into the TV which eventually would bring some more change into traditionally closed TV and STB platforms and this will pose tremendous pressure to current market players way of operating. There will be more features, more components, more players and collaborators, more competencies and nonetheless more services.

It is an interesting time for TV and we are witnesses of its transformation. What aspects I missed or I am being wrong about?



Linux kernel development – Some insight on the ecosystem of the commons, and motives

October 1, 2009

Linux story is not just about technology development, it is also what it means for a community and what the business is becoming.  Linux kernel grew under a new deal of a collaborative effort investment and sharing the technological return; somehow a rebellious mood to push back against the exclusionary and closed systems. Overall it is a major paradigm shift how a business is conduct because this is a project that demonstrates that cooperation can be useful in developing platforms.

There is an interesting talk of Yochai Benkler on the new open-source economics having his thesis that huge cost of  developing a product will ultimately lead to a social production with the ownership of the capital largely distributed is different to the well known methods (market and governmental ). Furthermore Benkler says in his Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm paper:

In this paper I explain that while free software is highly visible, it is in fact only one example of a much broader social-economic phenomenon. I suggest that we are seeing is the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode “commons-based peer-production,” to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands.

Thanks to Alun Williams I found an interesting 2009 report on Linux Kernel Development revealing facts on “How Fast it is Going, Who is Doing It, What They are Doing, and Who is Sponsoring It”

The top five individual companies sponsoring Linux kernel contributions include:
* 12.3% Red Hat
* 7.6% IBM
* 7.6% Novell
* 5.3% Intel
* 2.4% Oracle

The list of companies participating in Linux kernel development includes many of the most
successful technology firms in existence. None of these companies are supporting Linux
development as an act of charity; in each case, these companies find that improving the kernel
helps them to be more competitive in their markets. Some examples:
•     Companies like IBM, Intel, SGI, MIPS, Freescale, HP, Fujitsu, etc. are all working to ensure that Linux
runs well on their hardware. That, in turn, makes their offerings more attractive to Linux users, resulting
in increased sales.
•     Distributors like Red Hat, Novell, and MontaVista have a clear interest in making Linux as capable as it can
be. Though these firms compete strongly with each other for customers, they all work together to make the
Linux kernel better.
•     Companies like Sony, Nokia, and Samsung ship Linux as a component of products like video cameras,
television sets, and mobile telephones. Working with the development process helps these companies
ensure that Linux will continue to be a solid base for their products in the future.
•     Companies which are not in the information technology business can still find working with Linux
beneficial. The 2.6.25 kernel included an implementation of the PF_CAN network protocol which was
contributed by Volkswagen. 2.6.30 had a patch from Quantum Controls BV, which makes navigational
devices for yachts. These companies find Linux to be a solid platform upon which to build their products;
they contribute to the kernel to help ensure that Linux continues to meet their needs into the future. No
other operating system gives this power to influence future development to its users.
There are a number of good reasons for companies to support the Linux kernel. As a result, Linux has a broad
base of support which is not dependent on any single company. Even if the largest contributor were to cease
participation tomorrow, the Linux kernel would remain on a solid footing with a large and active development

It took personal volunteering until gained weight and height, into becoming an attractor factor. Quite our days  a snowball effect. Why? There is the resultant of rising cost of design of adding more and more complex platform features and the price squeeze which will lead commercial companies to rally with the open source phenomena as the last is less driven by the market.

On this token there is an interesting position in Collaboration is the way out of a crisis, says TSMC – IEF 2009 which reflects the mood to reinvent of the industries:

“It has to be made more profitable”, said Marced, “and it can only be done by collaboration. We have to make sure that the whole industry makes more money.”

Marced argued that collaboration reduces waste and shares investment while individual efforts lead to redundant initiatives and heavier investment.

There is also the 2008 revision for those interested in some sort of history snapshot reference of the Linux kernel development.

Unafraid to reinvent itself

February 22, 2009

I am hailing anyone that has the courage to reinvent himself. It is hard to leave behind what ever brought comfort or what was taken for granted, or just easy.  For a person, company or society there is always a dangerous moment  to find courage to choose difficult raison d’etre in whatever seems more uncertain. I find in Texas Instruments, unafraid to reinvent itself, is doing it again a history of a life trajectory marked by such uneasy glorious moments.

And by the way,  I see the present global crisis mere as a fearful postponing of a painful reinvention; credit crunch, falling house market are just symptoms.

Interesting times for semiconductor industry

February 9, 2009

There is an interesting article for the people from semiconductor industry. There is hinted the relationship between semiconductors providers and OEM’s, and how changes in OEM’s strategy / tactics are influencing the semiconductor industry state. In short is depicting an ecosystem. I wish reading a more detailed study which analyzes this ecosystem. 2008-2009 is a period which is changing the semiconductor business landscape; we cannot see an outstanding tehnical innovation, but the business partnerships and the surviving chance are shaping this landscape. However, the sole innovation warranty stays with the end user once that competition is diminished (or even disappearing). These forces dialectic may require and fuel new enterprise, today is cheaper to start such adventure . There is more to comment in future.