Monday, June 15, 2009

Following up with Icron after CONNECTIONS

In reflecting on some of the highlights of an outstanding CONNECTIONS™ 2009 event June 2-June 4, the introduction of new solutions to enhance the way in which entertainment content is enjoyed was a significant theme. I moderated a panel titled Extending the Reach of Wired Networks and Interfaces that showcased recent efforts in powerline networking, developing extensions to HDMI over twisted-pair, and Icron’s PC-on-TV solution. Rick Merritt at EE Times attended that session and wrote an article discussing the potential fit for the solutions offered by Icron Technologies, Silicon Image, Synerchip, and Valens Semiconductor.

When I was introduced to the Icron solution last September, I was intrigued by the solution that can basically extend a home computer desktop onto a high-definition TV using different types of standard networking solutions (be they Ethernet, “no-new-wires,” or wireless). I think that there’s good potential for products that allow consumers to access Web content on their TVs without going through devices like the digital media adapter or expensive solutions that don’t seem to work quite right.

Brian Donnelly, Icron’s vice president of sales and marketing, who walked me through a demonstration at CONNECTIONS last week, followed up on that article with some notes he wanted to clarify. Brian notes that Icron would be complementary to Valens or Synerchip, as their customers might implement Icron’s solution for whole-home video+USB-type of extensions. He also notes that Icron uses other company’s video chipsets (uncompressed and H.264 encoders/decoders) as part of their solution. So, they’re not looking to create a new video compression chip, but rather work with the solutions that are out there already and add remote USB functionality to enable a true PC on TV experience.

Icron’s “special sauce” – in wonky parlance – they multiplex all the data channels together (video, audio, USB) and perform various QoS and flow control optimizations as well as overall system optimization – this means that Icron has figured out how to ensure priority of the different data types so that your keyboard and mouse (and other USB I/O devices) are immediately recognized and processed as well as ensuring that video/audio are delivered in a very high quality format.

Brian says that products using the Icron PC-on-TV solution will be available in Q1 of 2010. I’ll look forward to seeing how the solution gets implemented.

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