It was the middle of January last month, just after CES had given over, when I was contacted by a certain Mr. Vinay MK about their Android based project called “Pathpartner’s Software Suite for Connected Media Devices”. Now, it is not everyday that I get to write about an Indian tech startup that is relevant in the international context. So naturally I was very excited. Hence I decided to dig in deeper.
PathPartner was started way back in 2007. The members have all known each other for over a decade and each has his own specializatioxn to contribute to the project. Vinay MK, the person who contacted me and supplied me with the information is a Co-Founder and the Director of Tecnical Marketing at PathPartner. The company is based out of Bangalore — the IT hub of India and somewhat comparable to the Silicon Valley in the US.
The key members all seem to be graduates of the top ranking places like IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kharagpur and Jadavpur University. Their backgrounds are all technical but extremely diverse (based on the short bios sent to me), which makes me think that the company is extremely well-equipped to handle all aspects of developing a technical product.
The basic premise of their project is actually quite useful if put into use. They are targeting boring old home appliances that we use daily that have clunky old UI’s. Think of your set top box for example. The UI could be so much better and so much more useful. Same for certain ‘Videophones’ and terminals that access media but really don’t exploit the full potential that modern technology offers them.
Let’s get one thing straight — these appliance-class electronics are (mostly) meant to be always-on and they are powerful enough to run basic UI and lightweight OS. So running Android on them would not require manufacturers to invest in better components. By using an Android based system, these vendors will be able to treat their customers to a richer experience with a lot of expandability (should they want that).
Pathpartner’s Software Suite is looking to help out these vendors by giving them a ready product that is specifically designed to work with things like VoIP, Broadband services, TV services, V2IP, etc. Not only are these services supported but Android’s really great Interface makes it much easier to place calls, surf the internet or check updates through these devices.
PathPartner is currently demoing the Software Suite through an implementation called ‘MediaPhone’. They are using a OMAP-3 touch book to demonstrate the various aspects of the software. Even though the software is focussed on getting the main things done, like making a call, checking TV schedules, etc, it also also allows you to go through your photos, videos and music (should the device support such playback).
The main use of this entire project in my opinion would be to have an extra Internet connected in the house which is neither your desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet or TV. PathPartner talks about a ‘fourth screen’ but to me it can just as easily be channelled on to the TV screen and worked through an IR remote (a WiiMote-like device, so to say).
One thing that I really like about this project is that it allows you to use standard Android apps, although Vinay reminds me that the screen size and/or resolution might make some of the standard apps unsuitable for the platform.
When asked about the status of their project, they said that basic development was over and the field testing is expected to begin in March this year. They also mentioned that they are currently in talks with local vendors in India and Texas Instruments has delivered their hardware codecs so that they can be included in this Android-based platform by PathPartner. So overall, there seems to be an interest in the project from the right kind of companies — mainly OEMs.
I really like the idea of enhancing our daily lives by bettering those little digital UIs that we don’t really think about — TV, Communication terminals, etc. I look forward to seeing some interesting implementations of their project. Enjoy the video in the meantime.
Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to make it clear that no other member from PathPartner has contacted me in anyway other than what has already been mentioned and it has been only through emails. I have received no ‘compensation’ of any kind for this article from PathPartner or anyone representing them. This post should considered as part of my regular reporting on this blog.