Most OS Used

Below is the number of OS used by visitors of Adputer website from Jan 1st, 2009 to Sep. 23, 2009.

There are so many Windows XP (15391) vs other OSes. Windows Vista is less used by Windows 2000. A surprised result is that more MacOS users than Linux users.

Adputer Player vs. Other Players for Digital Signage

Many Digital Signage prospects often ask questions like how do you compare Adputer Player to other players? Usually we would like users to find answers by themselves. It is interested that prospects are willing to listen to the answer from Adputer Inc. Here is our answer.

Since Adputer Player is based on X86/Windows platform, I am going to compare to the player based on ARM/Linux platform.  Other players based on X86/Windows platform are lack of our software so we are not going to analyze them below. I am going to compare Adputer Player to others in four aspects: Performance, Software, Power and Size, Innovation, and Cost Saving. It is better to present technological facts to compare.

1. Performance

Adputer Player is based on the latest Intel Atom 64-bit X86 1.6GHz Processor with Hyperthread. The DRAM is 1GB. Hard disk is 80GB. The CPU benchmark Dynonstone is 2500. Its primary OS is Windows XP SP3 that is 47% faster than Windows Vista. The Integrated Graphic Chipset supports DirectX 9.0c with GPU inside. 1GB DRAM allows Adputer Player run multiple threads and tasks as well as High-Definition video more easily. For example, Adputer Player can run player, embedded SQL database, and remote server simultaneously. Plus, the 80GB capacity of HDD can store 20 HD video and thousands and thousands photos in player. So it is a small local media storage system. You can think Adputer Player as a player/server.

For a typical ARM/Linux based Digital Signage Player today, its processor is ARM 32-bit 800MHz with 1 Thread. The Dynonstone is 1200 for the new ARM Cortex. DRAM is usually 128MB. SD/CF Storage are 4GB to 16GB for small Linux. Its graphics only supports OpenGL but no DirectX. This economic system works better for video streaming that connects to a server through network or internet. It is hard to run multiple tasks in such a small footprint of DRAM. It is better to consider as a thin client.

You can see the hardware value of Adputer Player vs the hardware value of ARM based system.

2. Software

Adputer Player works on Windows XP, the operating system platform with the most available number of software, commercial or free, in the world. Adputer multi-channel mixer is one of a software only worked for Windows at present. By the way, many device drivers are only supported in Windows XP. For example, the EVDO USB 3G wireless card only supported by telecom companies for windows.

Linux is also becoming an important platform. However, ARM/Linux software is still in small amount market share. Although ARM/Linux is widely used in mobile phone, it is not advanced in multimedia and 3D graphics.

3. Power and Size

Adputer Player based on Atom processor is a three chip solution at present. Atom is a low power consumption processor core. By applying 45 nm manufacture, a generation ahead of 65 nm processing of ARM based processor, Atom is marching the advantage of ARM in architecture for low power consumption and size.

ARM processor is usually Soc (Single of Chip) solution. So ARM based system can be passive cooling with ultra low power consumption. However Intel is working on more than 10 projects for SoC based on Atom and is planning to release in the end of this year.

Fairly to say Intel’s current Atom solution is not satisfied to the requirements of Adputer Player. One big fault of Intel’s Atom system is to use 45nm CPU working along with 90nm chipset. And it is completely wrong for Intel to distinguish mobile and desktop processor and chipset artificially. We certainly are willing to pay $10 more for mobile processor to embedded system.

4. Cost Saving

Since Adputer Player is not only a media player it can also be an application server, a web server, a remote server, and a database server, Adputer Player can work for multiple tasks. This is a cost saving of hardware.

Another cost saving is for content creation. The rich build-in shaders in Adputer Player allow users make their own ads easily. You can take pictures and draw texts as slide show in channel one, then selecting a tv program in channel two, finally selecting a animation shader to show a tv based advertising. This greatly save the time to make an advertising video.

5. Innovation

Adputer Player provides a platform for Digital Signage Applications. Many innovations on digital advertising can be applied on Adputer Player. For example, users can make visual special effect ads, interactive ads, and environmental ads on Adputer Player with its multi-channel mixer. You may use shader language and programming tools to develop and implement new concepts in real-time video processing.

Many templates of advertising shader can be designed in innovation.

Adputer Remote management works in different methods than other players.

Your comments are welcome.

Is normal PC suitable for Digital Signage?

There are several drawbacks to apply PC directly for Digital Signage.

1. Form factor of PC is not right

For desktop PC, ATX and Micro-ATX form fatcors are too big. There is no standard for the motherboard of notebook. A small box like iPhone is ideal for digital signage player that can be attached on the back of a large screen. In one word PC’s design is not compact.

2. Power consumption of PC is high

I can not imagine to use 100W system for 24/7 running in a small box.

3. Cooling system is simply wrong

Digital Signage Player requires passive cooling system. However you can check many PC boxes and find there may have several fans there.

4. Processor and chipset of PC are not a SoC

Any X86 PC includes a CPU and a Chipset. Unlike a single chip SoC, which integrates a processor and a chipset together, two chips solution used up more space and power. New 32nm semiconduct technology should make a single chip PC possible.

5. Too many external interface

Shall we need so many external interfaces for Digital Signage Player? RS232, Parallel Port, USB, .etc, VGA/DVI/HDMI. By using HDMI we can remove all other video and audio interfaces.

6. Video performance of PC is poor

A dual core CPU may not be able to decode a HD 1080p video in real-time. However by using a hardware accelerated video codec, a single core CPU can play HD 1080p video in smooth.

Who need Windows any more?

Neatware’s Ladybug Mixer is an innovation software for real-time digital video processing. It can composite HD videos from multiple channels instantly. For example, we can display videos from cable TV, DV camera, and HD media file on individual zone of a large LCD flat screen. But to implement those magic features a high bar of hardware and software is required.

In hardware Ladybug Mixer requires support of GPU with SM2.0 plus. For software the Mixer requires Windows XP or plus with DirectX 9.0c capable. Unfortunately these requirements limited the applications of Ladybug Mixer on mobile and small devices.

MID device is an example. As the price of MID hardware is in the range on US$100 to US$300, the Windows XP Embedded with price near US$80 is too expensive. So the possible selections are Windows CE and Linux. Unfortunately Ladybug Mixer can not run on both operating systems.

Ladybug Mixer contains many Windows specialized technologies such as multi-channel video engine, GPU programming with HLSL language and compiler, and 3D projection. We have paid lots of efforts and resources to make these technologies work in bug-free under the parallel computing environment. To port it on Linux it is like a complete rewrite.

But Windows is keeping us from entering the fastest growing market – mobile internet application. You may think that Windows CE is the solution. However Windows CE is not compatible to the driver of Windows XP. So it lacks the supports from hardware devices. It is better to switch to Linux instead of Windows CE.

Today Windows’ biggest disadvantage: No single unified kernel, is appear. We need Windows but it is becoming a barrier for new devices. Microsoft is becoming an old IBM who lacked insight.

Digital Signage for Retailer

Yesterday I went into a coffee shop. I had not been there for long time. The coffee shop is located in a shopping center and the renting must be expensive. Yesterday when I sat down there I found something new. First the owner had changed. Second there were more customers. Third the coffee shop also provided food. Last there was a large LCD screen to show cable TV. Is it the simplest digital signage? Maybe or maybe not.

In retail business a little bit unnoticeable improvement may increase sales and bring more customers. Many little bit positive improvements can save a business of a retailer. This is  an amazing law. Sure a digital signage is a positive improvement to the business of coffee shop. At least the dynamic pictures showed that the shop was full of living.

Why digital signage such as Neatware’s Adputer can attractive more customers? Here is an example.

“Tall Skinny Latte only 90 Calories try it with sugar-free syrup.” I saw this promotion phrase on a blackboard of a Starbucks store. By applying Adputer Player for Digital Signage, they can show thousands items of this kind of self-advertisings and promotions in a small precious real-estate space. Does this little bit improvement bring more business for the chain stores of coffee shop? I think retailers with rich experience can answer this question.