Broadcom said today that it would make sure content from Chumby, a nascent widget syndication effort for televisions, would run on its chips. It’s one of a handful of integration deals Broadcom has inked with software vendors to port their content to its chips. As broadband reaches more devices, deals between chipmakers and software vendors like these are becoming increasingly important.
For anyone who recalls the Chumby as a countertop device for accessing widgets, you’re thinking of the right company. It’s merely joining a growing pack of those looking expand its efforts beyond hardware to become a platform. In January it signed a similar integration deal with Marvell to get its widget platform onto digital picture frames.
Such heightened integration efforts are a natural outgrowth of adding broadband to phones, TVs, set-top boxes or even picture frames, because when you add broadband, you add the Internet. And as the mobile world has shown, no one wants a bastardized version of a “mobile web” or a “TV web;” they want the real deal. So that means the chips powering these devices need to be smarter, and have the right software to deliver a web-like experience on a screen that doesn’t belong to the PC.
Other examples on the TV side include Intel teaming up with Yahoo to deliver Yahoo’s television widget platform on the chip giant’s semiconductors for set-top boxes. Sigma Designs, a competitor in the digital television space, also has a deal to port Flash Lite properly to its chips. Broadcom does, too.
With that in mind, Broadcom’s decision to add Chumby is a nice way for the platform to gain traction in TVs or in set-top boxes, because it won’t have to go to each television maker to get integrated into the device (though notably the TV makers can disable the Chumby integration on their Broadcom chips if they feel like it).
Shriraj Gaglani, a senior director of business development for Broadcom, also thinks Chumby will get consumers psyched about accessing the web through their TVs. He likens the Chumby platform to a cell phone’s application store and says, “What we’ve felt we lacked in the ecosystem is the critical mass of apps and services that can leverage broadband televisions.”
I’m not sure if an App Store-like option will make the difference given that most consumers in the U.S. get their TV programming and set-top boxes from a cable provider that may disable such functionality. Broadcom has integrated other platforms on its DTV and set-top box chips but cannot disclose them. When I asked if Broadcom was integrating any platforms built by MSOs or carriers into its chips, Gaglani declined to discuss it.
Aside from making a bet on delivering the web to televisions, this deal underlies the prominence of Adobe’s Flash platform for viewing video online. When asked if Broadcom has any integration deals with Microsoft’s Silverlight platform (a competitor to Flash), Gaglani said, “We don’t have anything to announce on that.”