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MediaTek, Sony fortify relations to expand market presence

Posted: 09 Jan 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MediaTek? Sony? Android TV? SoC? Google?

MediaTek has recently hosted the press with a cocktail at its booth during this year's CES, as the company was completing its global rebranding tour. The Taiwan-based chip company has been trying to pry open the US and European markets, not as a supplier of low-end chip solutions but as a leading semiconductor vendor with technology prowess and marketing savvy.

C.J. Hsieh, president of MediaTek, used the occasion to disclose two things: introducing Japan's Sony as MediaTek's "most important friend," whose partnership led to the development of the world's first Android TV, and MediaTek's unequivocal share in the global TV SoC market. He said that three out of five TVs in the world today are powered by MediaTek's TV chips.

Sony's 4K TV

Sony's 4K TV, based on the world's first Android 5.0 Lollipop

A beaming Hsieh introduced Masashi Imamura, president of Sony Visual Products Inc., Sony's 100 per cent subsidiary responsible for TV business, and asked him to speak.

Hsieh offered a little background in a separate interview after cocktails.

MediaTek and Sony struck a partnership deal in 2013, along with Google, to develop Android TV. Although MediaTek has been allied with Sony since 2009, this agreement was particularly important because the deal focuses on Sony's high-end TV products. Hsieh explained, "MediaTek needed a great partner," and this helped MediaTek boost its confidence. Previously, when Sony dabbled with Google TV, it was Intel who supplied TV SoCs to Sony.

Masashi Imamura

Onstage, Sony's Imamura related Sony's high expectations for TV SoCs. "Sony's Bravia TVs would need very high picture and sound quality, great design form factor, and ease of use for operation." He added that by 2013, despite widespread doubts in the industry, "I already decided that 4K was going to be Sony's future."

To pull that off, Sony wanted a chip company with solutions to enhance colour gamma and advance an engine for 2K-to-4K up-conversion. Further, because Sony was working with Google on what is going to become the world's first Android TV, Sony needed a silicon partner who knows the Android operating system inside out, with a good amount of experience in both smartphone ICs and TV chips.

None of the semiconductor companies in the world, even Broadcom or Qualcomm, fit that bill. But MediaTek did. To seal the deal, Hsieh committed to setting company resources aside for Sony.

MediaTek, Sony executives

From left to right, Mohit Bhushan, VP, GM and MediaTek's head of U.S. business development; C.J. Hsieh, president of MediaTek; Masashi Imamura, president of Sony Visual Products; Suveer Kothari, Google Cast director of business development; and Joe Chen, SVP of MTK. (Image: EE Times/Junko Yoshida)

Transition from Google TV to Android TV

Observers of the electronics industry say that Google's early Google TV initiative failed because the search engine giant was trying to build a TV platform based on a version of Android OS slightly different from the OS used in smartphones. The user interface of early Google TV was more complex and confusing, something akin to a PC, that required a keyboard.

Remote controller for Sony's Android TV

A remote controller for Sony's Android TV. No keyboard needed.

In contrast, with Android TV, Google is switching its strategy to take advantage of the Android ecosystem and a growing population already using Android smartphones. The TV platform will use an interface as intuitive and as simple those in Android-based smartphones.

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