It is dueling technology shows this week. We have E3 on gaming here in the states, Computex in Taiwan, and HP’s Discover in Las Vegas. There are interesting things coming from all three shows that could change our future. One of the early announcements was from Skifta, which is an interesting part of the Atheros division of Qualcomm. Skifta has been around for a while and provides an app that runs on the iOS and Android which allows you to dynamically switch media around your home on DLNA devices. DLNA is one of those neat standards that we all should be using to get our entertainment experiences out of last century, but generally don’t. It also works with UpNP, which stands for Universal Plug and Play, and is either an oxymoron or a not so funny joke because generally what it doesn’t do universally is plug and play.
You see the problem is, as it usually is, that no one owns the solution, so this stuff is all harder to set up than it should be and, as a result, we are not getting the benefits of current century technology we are paying for. I know, what a surprise right, but the Skifta folks are trying to fix this.
The Skifta Engine
The Skifta Engine is the device side of the solution; it sits on the media device (either repository or playback) and assures that the solution actually works. So, once in place, you can pop out your phone bring up the Skifta application, find the media (music, pictures, or video) and with a simple swipe of your finger put in on your TV, receiver, boom box, or even a Skifta enabled car stereo.
You are going to need to pay attention to the features on the device because no one is yet building products where you can add apps to them easily outside of phones, iPods, and iPads. So this won’t work with what you have and, given car companies work in a 5 year cycle for technology, the earliest the Skifta Engine is likely to get into a car is likely 2017.
Home entertainment and storage systems work off of a 12 month cycle and that suggests some should support this in a year.
However, this once again points to the problem that Apple TV, the Xbox and other advanced (read flashable/updatable) devices uniquely provide today. Most things we have can’t be updated, they can only be replaced and if you are talking about a $500 or better receiver or a $2,000 or better TV that can be rather painful. This is likely what makes the rumored next generation Apple TV product more interesting because it will be an updatable product that will use apps and one of those apps could be a Skifta Engine.
Granted, Apple likes you to buy new hardware every 24 months so I’m not expecting a huge fix from them but that takes us to E3 and the Xbox. The nice thing about gaming systems is they are expected to last five or more years and now that Microsoft is positioning it as more of a media platform (Sony is doing more of this with the Play Station as well) there is a reasonable chance it will eventually be a more cost effective home media solution.
So, by the end of the decade we should finally be able to move our media around the room as promised easily with our smartphones and update both ends of the solution as needed, so we aren’t as often left with near new obsolete hardware.
The Skifta Engine promises a future where you’ll finally be able to manage your media around your home from your digital movies to your digital music and maybe even move that experience to the last frontier, your car. However, the bigger changes going on behind the scenes are apps that can run on both ends of the solution that will mean we can update our hardware to keep it current. Not being able to do this in the home is painful at the moment; not being able to do this in cars is inexcusable. Aftermarket radio makers, like Kenwood and Pioneer (Aha Radio), have started to address this but the car companies need to move into this decade. Perhaps the Skifta Engine will help to remind them to get off their butts and move into the current century.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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