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Components | April 29, 2011

Silicon Image: Wireless HD Video leadership on the cards

With its planned acquisition of SiBeam, high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) chipmaker Silicon Image has positioned itself to take the lead in the burgeoning market for the semiconductors that are used in electronics products featuring built-in wireless high-definition (HD) video transfer, states iSuppli.
HDMI technology developer and founder Silicon Image this month announced plans to acquire SiBeam, one of the leaders in the emerging market for wireless connectivity for HD video. SiBeam is a fabless semiconductor company that is focused on bringing very high-speed wireless communications technologies to the consumer electronics space—technologies that can approach the performance of wired connections such as HDMI. The company offers a unique 60GHz technology conforming to the WirelessHD standard.

Shipments of products that could use SiBeam’s wireless video technology are expected to rise to 241.1 million units in 2015, up from just 6.6 million in 2010, as shown in the attached figure.

These products range from consumer platforms to computers, to mobile devices, to media tablets. Some of the biggest product areas adopting wireless video in the coming years will include flat-panel TVs; notebook and netbook PCs; and mobile consumer electronics devices, such as portable media players, portable gaming devices, 3G/4G mobile communication handsets and HD camcorders.

“This acquisition sets up Silicon Image—the market leader and founder of the now-ubiquitous HDMI audio/video interface standard—with access to technology that could extend the first true wireless HDMI solutions to the market,” said Randy Lawson, manager and principal analyst for display and consumer electronics at IHS. “SiBeam and its technology should prove a valuable asset for Silicon Image because the wireless video interconnect technology plays directly into the fastest-growing market opportunity for Silicon Image and high-definition video interface technology.”

During the past year, Silicon Image tallied $191 million in semiconductor and IP licensing revenues, up 26 percent from 2009. The company represents one of the largest interface/connectivity-focused suppliers to the consumer electronics industry.

For Silicon Image, the SiBeam acquisition is key to its continued growth.

While growth rates are expected to slow for standard HDMI-based semiconductor technology in traditional consumer electronics devices in the coming years, demand for wireless HD solutions will begin ramping up. HDMI semiconductor suppliers are seeing increased opportunities in the mobile PC and wireless communications spaces, markets that SiBeam’s 60GHz technology should allow Silicon Image to better address.

Mobile devices and consumer electronics spur wireless video demand

Sales of smart phones and media tablets are rising strongly. Furthermore, there is increasing adoption of not only wired, but now wireless broadband service, which is causing a surge in mobile media consumption.

All this is promoting content sharing and the adoption of video interface technology on a growing list of mobile devices, including smart phones, consumer laptops and media-consumption tablets. Together, these factors are expected to help spur adoption of wireless high-speed interface solutions like Wireless HD in mobile platforms.

This rapid expansion in the market of mobile consumer electronics devices parallels the trend of increasing adoption of Internet-media access and connectivity features in Blu-ray players, video game consoles and digital televisions. The convergence of ubiquitous media access, along with Internet-ready television sets that support multiple codec formats, will promote the adoption of wireless HD video technology into a wide range of products during the next few years.

Setting the standards

SiBeam was the founder and promoter of the WirelessHD standard. And although there is no official standard that can be called "Wireless HDMI,” the acquisition of SiBeam could allow Silicon Image to establish the standard wireless version of HDMI.

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