Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Home Networking Powerhouse?

Not exactly.

But, published reports that Sigma Designs is looking at buying CopperGate intrigue me. Both do a ton of business with AT&T, both have recently joined the HomeGrid board of directors, both are looking to expand their IPTV footprints worldwide, and both would benefit from sales synergies in terms of current and targeted customers. Plus, the combined entity would be well-positioned to attack many aspects of next-generation connectivity between homes and utilities, as we continue the inexorable march towards a smarter power grid.

That said, I've been less than impressed with Sigma's overall messaging of late, particularly as it relates to...well...pretty much everything they do. Not a single new press release in four months? This, from a public company? No press releases on quarterlies in the last ten months? Wow. Sigma acquired Zensys in December, 2008, and we've heard not a peep since. Zensys' website has been in zombie mode since shortly before the Sigma acquisition, too.

The ZigBee Alliance continues to expand their messaging and reach in the home control world, particularly in the smart grid arena, where their combined messaging with the HomePlug Alliance resonates extremely well. Pun intended.

Meanwhile, the Z-Wave Alliance continues to pump out press releases (in both English and German!), but they've been noticeably absent from high profile events (e.g., GridWeek) in the U.S. over the last year. I can certainly understand Z-Wave's focus on Europe, as the EU is ahead of the U.S. on a number of smart grid initiatives. But, I can't reconcile the fact that Sigma acquired Zensys--the creator of the Z-Wave specification--almost a year ago, and they've done so little to progress Zensys' products or the Z-Wave Alliance, at least visibly.

HomePlug and ZigBee's names are all over the first draft of the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, yet Z-Wave is nowhere to be found, save for a few letters as part of the consolidated comments process...sadly, not convincing enough to prompt NIST to include Z-Wave as one of the 31 identified standards, or one of the 46 to be considered as part of the further review process. True, this is the first draft, with two more revisions to follow before finality. But, this is symptomatic of the lack of industry momentum for Z-Wave, and speaks well to the efforts of other standards organizations and alliances--heck, G.9960, which isn't even finalized yet, managed to be recognized as an identified standard.

My belief is that a Sigma-CopperGate combination would be able to deliver a compelling silicon platform for whole home connectivity at rates from kilobits to gigabits per second, while also having the brains (in their 86XX series) to display and control the home. But, Sigma must do a better job of integrating CopperGate than they have with Zensys.

Otherwise, why bother?

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