Hollywood mobile TV chip is alive (just) in Texas
TI predicts market surge
Interview Rumors of the demise of Texas Instruments' (TI) Hollywood mobile TV chip are exaggerated, according to Yoram Solomon, director of strategic marketing, industry, and standards at the company.
"I don't think the development of the chip is on hold, it's just that the market is on hold," Solomon told us at the recent IBC show.
Our own research, conducted by sister service Faultline, indicates that if the market is on hold, it's about to take off, projecting that about 11 million mobile TV chips will ship this year, with just 50 per cent of these being ISDB-T and T-DMB chips destined for Japan and Korea.
Those are healthy shipments and the next few years will see a huge number of new services launched. By 2011 we expect 244 million handsets to be deployed in the field that can receive some form of broadcast video and DVB-H should be on at least half of these.
"Hollywood comes in two versions, one for ISDB-T, which is shipping in Japan, and one for DVB-H, which is also shipping now in volume, although I’d have to admit it is low volumes. Handset manufacturers are in the process of integrating these chips into devices, but none of those devices have yet launched so we can’t tell you yet which manufacturers," said Solomon.
"Texas will have a significant market share when those devices come to market, but right now we are more excited about GPS on the handset," he added.
In March, TI announced its chip entry into that space, the NaviLink 5.0 GPS chip, built using its Digital RF Processor, partly developed with Nokia. Rival Broadcom clearly agrees with Solomon, and last week launched its own contender for that market, the first since it acquired Global Locate in July, in what appeared a direct response to the TI move. It cited research which suggests that there will be 47 million standalone GPS devices and 436 million handsets with GPS technology by 2010.
While TI remains confident about the DVB-H market, even if as a longer term prospect than GPS – Solomon even believes that AT&T will drop its commitment to MediaFLO in the US in favour of DVB-H once a system is available – it will need to look beyond handsets to take full advantage.
"Most of the new customers that are taking Hollywood are putting them into high end and midrange devices," said Solomon. "We do not know of any company that is buying it to put into a device which is not a handset."
This makes sense, since Hollywood offloads the screen driving work to the TI OMAP application processor, but rival mobile TV chips from DiBcom and Siano chips are definitely in demand for devices which are not handsets at all.
TI will also look to lower end devices to expand its mobile TV chip business. Solomon explained: "There are two things driving handsets these days. The cyclic replacement of all the existing 3bn handsets out there and the opening up of cellular to people in the world that have yet to buy handsets.
"The replacement market is where most of these phones are going, as operators try to differentiate their feature set with handset features. But even at the low end, where TI aims its LoCosto handsets, these devices need at least unicast video features. These are not the target for Hollywood, but these cheaper markets are targets today for video in devices that are under $40."
The interesting aspect of putting out a DVB-H service in a developing economy which has low quality, non-digital TV, is that it has the opportunity to become the de facto TV service for that country, watched as much on PCs as on handsets.
This is certainly the case in South Africa, which is expecting that townships will watch mobile TV using a PC as if it were a TV. The implication is that as the price comes down on Hollywood (bill of materials is under $10 now), it may well end up in handsets down in that price range, once those markets get broadcast video services, and also in other devices.
The big immediate target for TI is to win the Nokia DVB-H business, since the Finn is the prime contractor and handset supplier in about half of the global DVB-H trials and in some of the launched services. In the past Nokia would work the kinks out of a technology and then hand it over to a chip partner once the feature was ready to go into mass deployment, but is now sharing its chip partnerships more widely, and reducing its own input in order to save time and cost to market.
"The positives that we can take out of that strategy change is that Nokia is moving from custom to catalog chips. That means it will buy more off the shelf devices, which can also be sold to others such as Motorola or Samsung. That plays to our strength because with our OMAP applications architecture we can handle multiple protocols and codecs with the same device," said Solomon, putting a brave face on the loss of TI's near monopoly of Nokia baseband business.
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