“What is the future Information technology? What comes after everybody is connected? In my opinion, the next big step is entertainment”

2001, Linus Torvalds in Just for fun.

Key Milestones in the evolution of Digital Media Players

The open source Xvid MPEG-4 video format is released and is today the  choice for storing DVD in a digital format.

KiSS Technology,  introduced its DP500, the first DVD player to offer an Ethernet connection and DivX/Xvid support.
The MKV (Matroska) Multimedia Container is relased and becomes the popular choice for digitally storing H.264 HD movies such as Blu-Ray

The FreeKISS software that connects the players to the home network and allow streaming of movies  to the player is released

Cisco buys KiSS Technology  the purchase gave Cisco access to the company's technology, which includes DVD players and recorders that connect to the Internet.

Intel Viiv Is launched at CES

Apple into's the AppleTV Digital Media Player


Syabas affiliate Popcorn launches the Popcorn 100 and the A-110


Western Digital Introduces the WD TV HD media player for less than $100

Seagates introduces the Freeagent Hometheater

Syabas introduces the C-200 DMP with support for blu-ray and blu-ray ISO files

Realtek introduces their Soc chipset that is used in many modern DMP's.

Intel Launches the CE4100 Atom based SoC for Connected TV's

Asus, Netgear, Xtreamer, Cinematube, ACRyan all launch Realtek based digital media players.

Western Digital launch Sigma smp 8655 Powered WD TV  Liver player with built in Youtube and support for DTS-HD audio.


First ARM Based Media Players is announced

Asus HD2  and Asus  Eeemedia EM0501 are the first media players with a built web browser

WD TV Live Plus: first media player with built in support for Netflix

Boxee Box by D-Link is delayed till November

Digital Media Players

In the most basic of terms, a Media Player is a box you connect to your TV and Hi-Fi to play digital audio and video files.

The Digital Media Players have disintegrated the functions of video playing, from the pc into an embedded consumer devices, much like Squeezebox and Ipod did it for  mp3 music, which beforehand were played on the computer.
Intel CE4100 will be embedded into TV’s but it is Sigma Designs and Realtek with their Soc’s and Syabas middleware that have lead the disintegration into consumer DMPs.

The formation of a new product and market.

From the kiss DP500 to the Popcorn C-200

The first company that  launched an  consumer living room  device, that integrated the best from the PC and the the best from the consumer electronics products, was the small start-up firm Kiss Technology. with their DP500 player.

The player integrated new capabilities of playing digital media files on a small media player. The Danish company called K.I.S.S. Technology was the pioneer in this new consumer product category. They launched the DP500 the media player in the fall of 2002, which were able to play the popular online divx video format in a regular Physical DVD player. Later in 2003 they introduced the DP500 the first networked DVD player, that enabled the user to connect the Player to a PC, were the movie files were stored..

Click here for a complete line up of the Kiss products

The Evolution of the Software for controlling digital media players

Traditionally when a consumer wanted to watch a movie, he or she went to the local movie rental store and rented a DVD or blu-ray disc. Or the use of Video on demand form their local cable TV Company was also method of delivery

However within the last 10 years some consumers have opted to use the internet as their channel for movies and TV shows.

At first is was the illegal download over peer to peer networks where users shared the video that had ripped form a DVD disc. The video formats used in these illegal copies is called, Xvid for SD movies and  X.264 in the MKV container  for HD movies

These user have in many years used their PC for downloading and watching  movies. However this solution have not been optimal since, the consumes would want to see the movie on large TV and not on a small computer screen. Therefore many early adopters’ experimented in hooking up their PC to the TV to watch the movies in the living room. This created some problems. A problem was of interface control, it is not easy to navigate a computer with a mouse and keyboard from when you sit in your living room couch, you do not want to go to the pc all the time to use keyboard or mouse.

For a more detailed discussion and history of software go to the software page

Usage model example of the modern Digital Media Player


Current offerings of Media Players

Media Processors

According to Keith Jack a Media processor is able to run a variety of programs, and offers a variety of audio/video inputs and outputs, ways to connect to other things (such as memory, hard drives, tuners, Ethernet, etc.). For a complete overview, visit KJ Blog
Media Processors are found in Media players and handle the OS and the playback and decoding of media files.

Chipset architecture

MIPS Technologies are today dominating the Media player field, mainly because Sigma Designs relies on MIPS for thier Key Media Processors. Sigma and Realtek  applies a RISC CPU design from MIPS technologies, where Intel relies on their x86 structure.

Nvidia's Tegra2 is the first ARM Based Chip design to be seen in the Media Player business coming out on the new Boxee Box. Also Asus have annocuned an Media Player runing on a Cortex11 ARM chip by Samsung and a SGX540 GPU by Imagination. 

The MIPS chip architecture have recently pushed ahead and have ported the Android OS for its chip design. Intel is keen to enter the embedded market and is ferociously luring programmers and producers to choose their embedded SoC platform CE 4100. They have had good luck so far with the CE producers such as Samsung, Sony and Toshiba by CE4100 SoC into Flatscreen TV's. They are also running large adds and E-events on their embedded design structure for
consumer electronics .
MIPS is often called a more elegant architecture than x86, because of its easier design structure and low watt requirements, not to mention low price. It also allows for easier integration of different chips and technologies to be programmed onto one System on a Chip boards.

For a more detailed view of Arm vs. MIPS see Forbes.com
For a x86 chip design vs RISC (ARM & MIPS) see this lecture 

Semiconductors firms producing Media Processors

Intel, Sigma and Realtek.

Intel Embeeded CE Media Processors

Intel Launched their Viiv approach to he home theater pc back 2005, and ended it in 2009 where they introduced the SoC system called CE 2100, CE 3100 CE4100 for a deeper insight into the Viiv, go to the Viiv page

Intel Viiv

Sigma Designs Media Processors

The leading provider of Semiconductors for the DMP's Providing Media Processor

Sigma Designs


[1] (The economist, the digital home sept 21 2005)

[2] (The war for the digital home, BusinesWeek jan 23 2006)

[3] (The war for the digital home, BusinesWeek jan 23 2006)

[4] (The economist, the digital home sept 21 2005)