It’s official: Marvell’s ARM-based processors will power the next generation of Google TV devices, which are going to be unveiled at CES next week. The chip maker announced Thursday morning that its ARMADA 1500 system-on-a-chip (SoC) will be at the core of new TV sets, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes to be launched with Google’s smart TV platform next week. Marvell Senior Product Marketing Manager Edward Silva didn’t reveal any details about the actual products in a phone conversation Wednesday, but reports indicate we could see new Google TV devices from Vizio, Samsung and LG.
Silva did, however, share a few interesting technical details about the ARMADA 1500 SoC: The chip comes with a dual-core CPU clocking 1.2 GHz per core and is capable of decoding two 1080p video streams at the same time, which will enable picture-in-picture applications as well as widget overlays for Google TV. Silva said the overall experience will be “snappier” when compared to the first generation of Google TV devices, which are powered by Intel’s C4100 Atom processor.
Other improvements will include better power management, which should cut energy requirements compared to current Google TV set-top boxes, and support more video codecs. Also worth noting is that the new generation of Google TVs will be able to natively decode VP8, which is at the core of Google’s open source WebM video format. The addition of VP8 to Google TV could help the format gain much-needed traction, and possibly convince Google itself to stream the WebM versions of its YouTube videos to Google TV devices.
Finally, the biggest selling point for consumers: ARM-based Google TV devices will be considerably cheaper than their Intel predecessors. Logitech’s Revue Google TV set-top box initially sold for $250 — or rather, it didn’t sell, leading to huge losses for the CE maker. Sales only started to pick up when the company finally reduced the price to $99.
Google TV’s move towards an ARM-based architecture had been rumored for more than a year, and Intel itself officially threw in the towel and exited the Smart TV space in October, shuttering its Digital Home group to concentrate on tablets instead.
Silva told me that he views the move towards ARM-powered Android devices as “part of the disruption” that’s about to mix up the TV space. He likened this disruption to similar trends in the mobile space, which has long been dominated by ARM-based chips, and added that the makers as well as the big distributors of pay TV set-top boxes are next to wake up to this trend. The first wave of ARM-based Google TVs will be followed by Marvell-powered Android set-top boxes later this year, he explained.