With Moves By Intel And Microsoft, Maybe Digital Signage’s Future Isn’t All About ARM

August 2, 2014 by Dave Haynes


Maybe ARM isn’t entirely going to take over from old school x86 PCs for digital signage …

When I was in Taipei at Computex a couple of months ago I saw a lot of computing devices and talked to a lot of people who were showing off low cost boxes that could ostensibly play back videos in a schedule, using cheap mobile CPUs and free Android software. But the conversation that stuck with me was one about ARM processors, and how Intel was catching up in terms of costs and capability with its own teeny, low cost microprocessors. I talked to some folks who weren’t going ARM and Android because Intel and good old Windows were getting competitive.

Something called the Bay Trail processor, I was told, was capable of serving digital signage video playback needs, at a cost competitive with ARM devices.

Oh, really, I said.

Fast forward two months and I get a note from Broadsign‘s Bryan Mongeau, who is waaaaaaay more technically sound than I will ever be. Mongeau has for many years run Broadsign’s development team and as VP Technology for the company, invested a huge amount of time and resources making his code work on ARM and Android. But he keeps an eye on the larger market.

Microsoft, Mongeau tells me, has started licensing Windows 8 at VERY competitive price points in order to compete at price points that Chromeboxes and Android devices are at.  Combine that with the new Bay Trail designs coming out, and we are looking at an imminent shift in playback devices.

Mongeau thinks the market will soon see a rush of new windows-based devices that are both price competitive AND highly capable.

Naysayers can say what they will about Windows, concludes Mongeau, but at the end of the day, the OS is still very relevant for digital signage.  Looks like (new CEO) Satya Nadella is making the right decisions to ensure that it stays relevant and competitive in the future.  

These are very interesting times. There was a massive rush of companies working to get their platforms working with ARM devices and running Android, Google’s version of Linux. There was definitely chatter out there about how Intel stayed relevant when ARM devices were competitive in capability but dramatically lower in cost.

The new Intel CPUs appear to change that conversation, and when Microsoft chips in with free or nominal license fees for its OS, there’s reason for software companies that have stuck with Windows to be smiling.

  1. Ken Goldberg says:


    It is probably worth mentioning that Linux runs on Baytrail just fine. Pico-ITX boards with Baytrail CPUs are here. Windows’ relevance is, as always, in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Eduardo says:

    AMD is also hot on the heels of digital signage and other embedded markets such as casino gaming, take a look at that section on their website. Reviews show their performance to be higher than Bay Trail’s, but Intel is using predatory dumping (aka Contra Revenue) to prevent OEMs from working with AMD.

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