Qualcomm’s Skifta unit has partnered with Tymphany to replace Bluetooth as the default protocol for wireless audio with a more fitting approach for networked entertainment. Tymphany will integrate Skifta’s Audio Module into new speakers and audio playback devices that could reach the market as early as next summer. Skifta’s technology is based on DLNA, and owners of these devices will be able to control playback with the company’s mobile apps.
Never heard about Tymphany? No worries, you’re not alone. The company is an ODM (original design manufacturer), meaning that it produces speakers and audio components for other companies in the premium audio space. Walk into any Best Buy and you’re likely going to see at least a dozen devices made by Tymphany but sold under other brands, explained the company’s chairman and chief development officer Tom Jacoby in an interview Monday. Tymphany currently has a market share of 15 percent to 25 percent for high-end Bluetooth speakers, he added. The company just can’t really name any of the ones that will make use of Skifta.
Things will become a bit more transparent once those devices will reach retail stores next year. Speakers will branded as Skifta-powered, and the name of the Qualcomm subsidiary may pop up in other places as well. Think cable companies, or phone companies with lots of retail space that can be used to demonstrate high-end accessories to your new DLNA-capable smartphone. “We are really opening up the market for non-traditional players,” Jacoby said.
So why go DLNA? “Bluetooth is a great point-to-point solution,” explained Jacoby. But it’s not as good at connecting you to online content sources, and doesn’t necessarily interoperate with some of the devices in your network. And what good is a wireless technology if it won’t help you stream your music from the drive connected to your router, or from the internet, for that matter?
“Most content is remote in some sense,” said Tymphany’s director of business development Todd Anderson, adding: “By necessity, consumer electronics will need to be networked.”
Of course, there is that other wireless networking technology out there that’s been a big success story: Apple has licensed AirPlay to some speaker makers, and Tymphany is in fact building speakers with AirPlay support as well.
But the platform isn’t open, so consumers won’t be easily able to use their AirPlay speakers with an Android device or other non-Apple hardware, which is why Tymphany went with DLNA powered by the Skifta Audio Module instead. “We would love nothing greater than for Apple to open up their platform,” said Anderson. “We would love to support AirPlay,” agreed Skifta director of product marketing Gary Brotman, “but that is not an option.”
Will the Skifta brand be able to compete against something with as big a mindshare as AirPlay? We may have to wait until the next holiday season to really find out.