Qualcomm’s plan to win the battle for the digital home

Qualcomm Atheros (s QCOM) announced a software solution that adds DLNA, in-home media shifting and Internet content streaming to routers, set-top boxes and other types of gateway devices at the Computex trade show in Taiwan Tuesday. The Java-based solution, dubbed Skifta Engine, is the company’s next step to take on Apple (s AAPL) and others in the fight for the digital home.
The Skifta Engine is DLNA-compatible, meaning that it will allow users of Skifta-powered devices to stream music, videos and other types of media straight from their router to their Xbox or PS3. (s SNE) Additional functionality is available in conjunction with the Skifta Android (s GOOG) app: Skifta offers users a way to stream home media to their Android device on the go, and also makes it possible to access a number of Internet content channels, including Facebook, TED Talks and Revision3.
Qualcomm Atheros originally released its Skifta Android app in late 2010 to prove a demand for media shifting in the living room. Eighteen months in, Skifta has an active install base of 700,000, and the Qualcomm subsidiary is setting its sights on something bigger: the digital home.
Qualcomm Atheros Director of Product Marketing for the Networking Business Unit Gary Brotman told me during a phone conversation last week that Skifta Engine is a key part in this strategy, because it takes the computer out of the equation. Users don’t need to leave their home PC up and running anymore to access their home video on the go because the router and other always-on devices do all the heavy lifting. “You start to look at the gateway as the smarts for the home,” Brotman said. Media sharing and shifting is really just a first killer app to get people familiar with the technology, he told me. In other words: Get in people’s living room first, and you’ll have easy access to the rest of the house.
Skifta Engine won’t run on low-end routers that sell for $50 or less. Instead, it’s aimed towards higher-end devices, which are increasingly looking like a platform. Brotman told me that a number of device manufacturers are working on their own app stores for home gateway devices; and Skifta Engine could soon arrive as a download on one of those platforms. Some consumers will have access to Skifta on their routers before the end of summer, Brotman predicted.
Of course, Qualcomm Atheros isn’t alone in its quest to bring media shifting to the digital home. A number of companies already utilize DLNA. Samsung, for example, is using the technology as the basis for its own AllShare media sharing solution. Then there is Apple and its Airplay protocol, and just this week, Microsoft (s MSFT) threw its own hat in the ring with its new SmartGlass second screen gaming and media sharing technology. Brotman told me that the key to compete in this race will be to use widely available standards and make its own technology available for licensing. “What consumers don’t need is another walled garden,” he said.