Searching for the Holy
Grail of Web-to-TV Video
By David Kirkpatrick
Fortune Senior Editor
Safi Qureshey (left) and Sherjil
York: I hadn't seen Safi Qureshey in about ten years, since
AST, the important early PC company he co-founded (he was
the "S") faded from view. But after I spent an hour
or so with him and managers from his new company, Quartics,
I realized his new company could be even more important than
his first one.
Talking to him reinforced my impression that the media world,
especially television and cable, will be threatened and transformed
even faster than most realize. How? Quartics makes a chip
that gets video from your PC to a TV. And it does it with
minimal effort and at low cost. That's something we've all
been waiting for.
Apple moves in on movies
Says Quartics President Sherjil Ahmed: "The whole purpose
is to take content off your PC and put it onto another device,
whether it's a TV or another kind of second screen."
Apple (Charts) is scheduled to launch a Web-to-TV product,
which it calls iTV, early next year, but machines using Quartics'
chips should be ready by Christmas, says Qureshey.
Similar products will be coming from a range of companies.
And these video transfer devices will be far more versatile
than what Apple seems likely to offer. Not only that, but
Qureshey says the boxes with his chips will sell for between
$149-$199 initially, and in the near future, he hopes, will
go down to the vicinity of $99. "More and more content
is coming from the Internet," says Qureshey, "but
it always stops at the PC, on a small screen."
These companies will sell a small box you attach to your TV
set. It will use Wi-Fi to connect to your PC. Software will
come down onto your PC that allows you to take any kind of
video that works there and show it on the TV as large as the
quality will allow.
Several things set Quartics apart. For one thing, its product
will be able to process any kind of video. It has licensed
every available video standard. That means that iTunes, YouTube,
Flash, Real, Windows Media, and other kinds of video will
simply work. Once you have a Wi-Fi connection to the TV, you
just surf the net, find video, and play it on your TV. Quartics
will in fact send any kind of digital content from your PC
to any screen, or to a projector, for instance.
Can YouTube stay on top?
It could make showing Powerpoints or doing web demos much
easier. If the projector has a device using a Quartics chip,
you will just find it over Wi-Fi, and run your PC over the
projector. Qureshey says Quartics will eventually build a
range of other chips, including one that will go into a laptop
to allow you to show video--even full HD video--with minimal
power consumption: less than 3 watts, as opposed to the 21-31
watts it takes to show large-screen video today. The company
has already received four patents, and applied for 18 more.
Qureshey and Ahmed say all this is possible because unlike
other media processing chips from companies like ATI, Nvidia
and others, their technology focuses just on making video
work better. And the chips are programmable, which means that
they can be made to work with whatever comes along in the
future. "When a new Chinese TV standard comes we'll support
it," says Ahmed.
Qureshey reels off a list of just about every major PC-peripheral
company, saying Quartics is either in talks with them or already
has a deal for them to build products with the new chip. TV
makers are talking about building Quartics' technology into
their machines, the executives say. PC companies, too, are
interested in shipping a Quartics-enabled box with their PCs.
Interest is coming even from content owners like TV-show producers
and TV networks, some of whom are talking about building their
own private-label Quartics boxes in order to promote their
content over the web. Among those Quartics has talked to are
CinemaNow, JumpTV, and the Playboy Channel.
Apple's iTV is expected only to work with video streaming
from iTunes. That will make it considerably less versatile
than devices using the Quartics chip. But there is a possibility
that even Apple will join this party. Quartics has taken its
chip over to Cupertino for demos. Says Ahmed: "Apple
told me they had been looking long and hard for a product
like this and hadn't found one. We're going through technical
processes with them now." Discussions with Apple focus
on the energy-saving processor for laptops.
Since video will more and more be a critical thing--even THE
critical thing---we want from the Internet, getting it onto
any screen in our homes or offices is a very big deal. This
company, out of nowhere, may speed the shift of our attention
even more rapidly toward the web when we want to see video
This will be ideal for TV shows, movies, and home-produced
video. But even if you're watching a friend's video on YouTube,
wouldn't you want to play it on the TV with no hassle? As
bandwidth increases and you can download HD content as well,
why shouldn't you be able to play it on your TV?
Says Qureshey: "This was worth coming out of retirement
for." (Courtesy Fortune)