Does the race to smallest, for digital signage players, matter anymore?

May 16, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Tweetdeck popped up a Twitter post this morning about what was dubbed the world’s smallest x86 digital signage player, which made me mildly curious. The box, marketed by iBase, is indeed teeny and looks pretty powerful and slick.

Like many people, I have for years been paying attention to the PC marketplace and watching as PCs suitable for digital signage got smaller and smaller. It was not that long ago that the PCs getting bolted on the back of displays were much larger, and if you wanted to work with a mainstream manufacturer, they were too big to even fit behind and had to get wedged in some other way, and put somewhere else.

The Aopen digital engines that pretty shameless copied the Mac Mini set a new standard, when it came out in 2006-7, for something that was small enough to nicely tuck behind a panel, but also had some decent horsepower to run video and Flash. Some companies also started using the Mac, which by all accounts I’ve heard was/is a great DS player.

Then some solid state boxes, like the one by SpinetiX, came along that offered video playback out of something the size of a pack of cheese slices. Others from Gefen and Noxel, and a few more, followed.

So at that point, things were pretty much covered off in terms of gear with various capabilities hitting a size threshold. Problem solved. We’re done here.

But the race to smallest has kept on going.

Apart from marketing spin there is not a whole bunch of benefits to manufacturing and selling something that’s just a little bit smaller. Faster CPUs, great! Better graphics, good-good! Two percent smaller than somebody else’s box … well.

It has been a while since I had to fully spec the hardware for a deployment, but my guess is there is not a lot of hand-wringing still about finding something that’s small enough. However, I’d love to hear from some deployers whether the race to smaller is one they care much about anymore.

Comment away.


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