Slick Like Siano
Siano is a fabless semiconductor company that is focused almost completely on developing mobile digital TV (MDTV) receiver chips (IC’s) for various mobile applications – ranging from mobile phones to a wide variety of consumer electronics devices such as portable media players, portable navigation devices, PC’s and laptops and tablets.
In what is a very revealing interview, we caught up with Siano's VP of Marketing - Ronen Jashek, who talked about the alarming state of Mobile TV in Europe and the company's plans to dominate the US.
Ronen, most of the companies we converse with have a definitive mission statement – what’s yours?
Siano’s mission is to lead and enable the growing MDTV market through innovative technology, superior performance and extremely dedicated customer support.
Siano has been established since 2004, in tandem with the dawn of mobile digital TV. 7 years on - is your company happy with mobile TVs progress worldwide?
The answer is simply a combination of “yes and no”. In some regions, especially in the Far East countries such as Japan, Korea and now China, MDTV has taken off superbly; reaching extremely high penetration rates in mobile devices (more than 90% in Japan and Korea, and rapidly growing rate in China).
Does the growth vary greatly from country to country and what markets do you see developing?
In some regions, the growth is very fast like in China, Brazil and Argentina. We anticipate that eventually the penetration rate will follow the East. In the US, after some terrible years of broadcast MDTV attempts like the Modeo and Qualcomm’s FLO there is finally the right eco-system in place, geared up to make ATSC-M/H a big success.
What about the EU?
Unfortunately in the EU, broadcast MDTV has been a complete failure. Although some huge investments from some countries and carriers in the past (Italy’s H3G, TIM etc.), the service is now completely gone.
It has been somewhat start-stop in western developed countries – why is that?
We anticipated a few years ago that the EU will actually lead the MDTV trend, but instead it turned out to be quite the opposite. The reasons for the EU’s failure are numerous, but the lack of consolidated political/governmental unity to drive the investments in MDTV is one of the more distinct reasons. As a result, each region within the EU “experimented” with its own technology, never reaching an “economy of scale” and an economical MDTV service.
Also there has been a broken business model from the outset, the model used in the EU was paid, without any attempt to first attract the users with a free service. This caused the adoption rate to remain low all the time.
What about availability of attractive MDTV handsets to consumers?
Another key factor: a classic chicken-and-egg thing, but nonetheless the amount of attractive MDTV handsets in EU at the time could be counted using one hand.
So to surmise, Siano is well established in the Far East , you see Europe as a ‘dead’ market and you look to develop similarly in the US?
We do not plan to invest heavily in the EU. As for the US, this is an extremely important market for us; as the dominant MDTV IC provider for the East and Latin America, dominating the US market as well is a strategic objective of ours, and as such we are investing heavily in new products, local resources and sales efforts.
Siano supplies its chips to Samsung, Motorola, ZTE, Mio and Dell, amongst others – what kind of market-share do you believe you have in relation to your competitors?
We are dominant in many of the key global markets including North America. In Asia we are primarily prominent in China and in Latin America we hold key market-share in Brazil and Argentina - the two leading markets at the moment.
What kind of numbers are we talking?
We estimate our market share in China to be close to 50% and %40 in Latin America. In North America we have around 50%. Granted, the volumes in this market are still small as the market is just now evolving, but we have an extremely strong position.
So what sets you apart from the competition?
Our consistent technology innovation. Since the company was founded, we recognized the fact that the underlying foundation should be on cutting edge technology.
What do you consider to be your shining example of this?
Siano was the first company (and still is the only one to see in MP to this date) to offer multi-standard MDTV IC’s, recognizing the fact that from the technology standpoint, the world is fragmented. Our receivers offer the best combination of performance (sensitivity, immunity, etc), mobility and power consumption.
What else makes you distinct in an ever crowded market-place?
Comprehensiveness of the solutions: the consumer electronics world is filled with an extremely wide variety of platforms, encompassing different hardware and software elements (CPU’s, OS’s, etc). As such, Siano solutions are much more than just silico - we deliver a complete suite of software to accompany our chips, for a wide variety of all the popular platforms and OS’s.
As you know what you are selling is only half the point, how conscious is Siano offering support to consumers when products hit the market?
As trivial as it sounds, there is no replacement to being close to the customer, responding in time and in a professional manner. For a small company like ours this is always a challenge, but we quickly realized that customer support is a driver for our customers to launch their products to the market quickly. As such, we have local support in all the locations that we have customers.
Do Siano think that soon mobile TV will become the ubiquitous service touted by the media and various white paper reports in the early years?
The answer to this question is no longer a simple “yes”, as it depends on the region. In the Far East the answer is already yes. In Latin America, the answer is “yes” but still with a burden-of-proof on the ecosystem within this region to overcome the natural obstacles in an emerging market and to get to high adoption rates.
In the US, the initial signs are positive – the US broadcasters are strongly pushing M/H, the business model of a combination of free and pay seems to be the right one and the deployment is progressing at a steady pace.
As for the EU – we do not believe there will be a successful MDTV market within the next few years.
Recently Siano raised an additional 20 million in funding - can you tell us where that funding will be mainly directed?
The funding will be mainly directed in establishing leadership in the US market, and strengthening our current leadership positions in the Far East and Latin America.
What plans do Siano have to get their MDTV chips incorporated into mass produced mobile devices like laptops, tablets computers and smartphones for sale in more regions?
As we have a very wide variety of customer base that is already designing and shipping such products, our plans are to strengthen the relationship with these companies in order to focus on the emerging M/H market in the US, being the most dominant CE and Tablet market in the world, and launch as many products there as possible.
Do Siano see the evolution of their MDTV chips progressing at the same rate to cope with the ever increasing demands set by the user wanting to access high quality video and audio on their mobile devices?
Definitely yes, our chips are constantly improving in order to be able to provide the best user experience for the heavy-multimedia devices of our times. Depending on the MDTV technology/region, we are able to receive HD TV content and deliver it to the graphics engine in the handset/terminal.
One of the major drawbacks our readers have with the latest smartphones is battery life can drain very quickly – Siano has been known to openly address this issue in the past – is it still on the forefront of your developers thoughts or have other issues taken precedence?
Absolutely; efficient power consumption means longer viewing time to the consumer, and an overall better user experience. This is always a target for us when rolling out new products, and will continue to be so.
If we talk again this time next year – do you think the mobile DTV climate will have evolved?
Yes; I think that a year from now, we will be discussing not only how successful MDTV is in the East and Latin America, but also its US penetration rate.
What is Siano’s marketing strategy for the coming years?
Our strategy has always been to be dominant in the markets that we play in. As such, our attention for the coming years will be heavily focused on the US market; as the leading consumer market in the world, and with an ecosystem that can support MDTV technology, it’s an extremely big target and growth market for us.