Mobile Video Is So Hot It Earned a Spot on the Silicon

Mobile video is here to stay whether it’s chatting with friends via Skype or streaming movies from Netflix (s nflx). Even Adobe’s (s adbe) Flash player will still have a place in the Apple-defined (s aapl) post-PC era judging by several announcements out today that tout how application providers and chipmakers are marrying various video codecs to the hardware that powers mobile phones.
For example, Skype today said it was releasing a new open standard interface for encoding cameras, known as Skype UVC 1.4. available for chip vendors and video camera makers so they can make video cameras work with Skype at the hardware layer. Texas Instruments (s txn), Logitech (s logi) and Maxim are already using the standard. On the mobile application processor side, Qualcomm (s qcom) said it was going to power Adobe Flash on its Snapdragon chipsets; a followup to an announcement it made in February regarding integrating the Netflix DRM and codec on its processors. Other mobile application processor makers are also in discussions with vendors including Skype and Netflix according to my sources within the industry.
For those who spent their lives covering chips, these announcements are significant. Designing and producing chips is a long process (about 12-18 months), and of course, the devices that use them can take a few months to arrive on retail shelves before then residing inside a consumer’s pocket for another 18 months or so. Basically this means when a type of software support is built directly into silicon, it’s something that chipmakers and device makers think will be around for a while. So apparently, Skype, Netflix and Flash are making the grade — at least with some vendors.
And because integrating this sort of capability into the hardware helps cut down on processing cycles and battery drain, it also means that the folks building the stuff inside your phones and tablets think people are going to want to use these apps, and use them often. Also, in some cases it helps bypass software fragmentation issues that can make an application work less smoothly on devices that may run a plethora of different versions of an operating system. Android (s goog), I’m looking at you!
While the cost of mobile broadband or slower 3G speeds may limit the appeal of using video on our handsets, Wi-Fi, larger screens on devices like tablets, and the coming 4G networks will make video a necessity in a few short years. And that’s what these vendors are banking on as they bake this capability into the circuits of the chips themselves.