Intel has announced its own HDMI media stick, but its very different from the gadgets used as media streamers and low-cost, low-footprint Android digital signage players.
This is touted as a full x86 PC using Intel, not ARM.
The Intel Compute Stick is similar in shape and overall size to many of the HDMI sticks already on the market, certainly chunkier than the Dell Wyse Cloud Connect that Nanonation and Screenscape are using as digital sign players.
This one has an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and runs Windows 8.1 with Bing software. You plug into an HDMI port on a panel and use either panel or (better) a wall plug for power, run in by a USB cable.
The Compute Stick has 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. Intel says units will start shipping within this quarter and what will get attention is the price – $149.
Is this a killer product for digital signage? Well, maybe, maybe not.
The price is certainly attractive, as is the manufacturer being Intel versus someone from Shenzhen or Taiwan you may or may not every heard of. The Atom Bay Trail processor is regarded as being quite capable of running HD video.
While there are many companies that have developed to Android to take advantage of low-cost ARM processors, Intel now has Bay Trails that rival those low price points, but not require software companies to leave the comfy embrace of Windows.
It’s also, still, a stick hanging off an HDMI port on the back of a panel, and has limited ports. This is indeed a potential way to DO a low cost digital signage job, but it’s still largely a consumer product not necessarily intended or right for a high-demand business job running video 16 to 24 hours a day.
Regardless, it’s interesting to see that the big price gap between ARM-based Android media devices – clearly evident two years ago – has largely been closed down by Intel as it tries to move millions and billions of phones and tablets off ARM and on to Intel.
There were many, many companies that went down the Android development path, but it looks like those Windows shops that sat and watched the exodus had a sense patience would get them price competitive products without changing or adding an OS.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.