Press releases and lies.
I hate the art of drafting a press release. It involved too much the art of lying. The number of times I’ve seen “world first” announced in press releases that say nothing is countless.
The one that really got me agitated recently is Imagination Technologies and their announcement around WebRTC. Imagination acquired some years back a competitor of a company I worked for that is called HelloSoft, a developer of VoIP client SDKs. Haven’t been involved with either for quite some time.
I want to go over this specific press release paragraph by paragraph and explain what my understanding of this press release is. The quotes are from the press release. The bulleted text is my own interpretation.
Lets start from the title:
Imagination introduces world’s highest quality WebRTC media engine
- This is about a WebRTC media engine, but it isn’t comparable to the one at webrtc.org (at least not from reading the content of the press release)
- There’s no real indication on why it is the world’s highest quality one – how was that measured, if at all – and against what exactly
Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) introduces an innovative WebRTC media engine that promises to deliver a new level of quality to companies building native or browser-based voice and video conferencing services based on WebRTC. Imagination’s HelloSoft WebRTC engine with its unique, proven algorithms provides enhanced voice and video quality for a superior user experience across mobile and tablet platforms.
- This reads like “there’s a new media engine that implements WebRTC”, which is promising – it reduces the dependency on Google somewhat
- It is suitable for native apps, so those who need to work in embedded environments and use WebRTC can certainly go for this one
- HelloSoft is a provider of tools for developers. If they have a WebRTC media engine ready for customers who need iOS or Android under an SLA, then this is a clear win
- That part of suitable for browsers? Total BS. Browsers who embed a WebRTC media engine are the only ones qualifying. There are 4 of them:
- Chrome has its own implementation
- Firefox has one as well
- Apple is probably using parts of Chome’s implementation
- Microsoft… I don’t see them purchasing this one any time soon
- Playing the enhanced voice and video quality tune means they are old-school. WebRTC is good enough for most. It is going to be a tough sell compared to free
Companies bringing WebRTC applications to mobile devices must consider challenges such as power consumption, packet losses in wireless environments, bandwidth availability, echo cancellation and resource/memory availability, among others.
- All true, but Google’s own publicized roadmap for WebRTC places dealing with these issues within 2014.
Krishna Yarlagadda, president, Imagination Inc., says: “Imagination has deep expertise in developing media engines and related technologies, and our HelloSoft V.VoIP and VoLTE clients have already shipped in millions of devices worldwide. With this experience and leadership in building a wide range of leading IP for mobile platforms and other resource constrained devices, we understand the issues faced by our customers in bringing WebRTC to mobile. With our advanced algorithms encapsulated in an off-the-shelf product, we are enabling our customers to dramatically improve the WebRTC user experience.”
- Millions of devices doesn’t seem like much when compared to the 1.6 billion devices referenced just in the next paragraph. Not much of an experience here… although both Imagination and HelloSoft know what it takes to build such tools
- “encapsulated in an off-the-shelf product” – so this isn’t a media engine or a WebRTC replacement after all…
Imagination’s HelloSoft WebRTC media engine incorporates a number of features for better performance, functionality and overall user experience:
- Improved voice quality for speaker phone functionality across platforms with pre-processing modules for acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), noise cancellation (NC) and more
- Superior quality voice and video under lossy wireless environments through Imagination’s DVQM (Dynamic Video Quality Management) and EVQM (Enhanced Voice Quality Management) algorithms that mitigate up to 30% of packet losses
- Optimized for major processor architectures including the MIPS CPU architecture, with support for Android, iOS, Windows and Linux-based operating systems
- Support for a comprehensive list of voice codecs including OPUS, G.722, G.722.1, AMR-WB, AMR-NB, G.729ab, G.723.1, G.711, Speex, EVRC, iLBC; plus video codecs including VP8 and H.264
- Leverage of the hardware video accelerators available on a device, such as PowerVR video codecs found in millions of devices
Imagination’s WebRTC media engine is also available as a complete turn-key client in combination with call management software and SIP stack.
- So we have a media engine with all the bells and whistles we used to have
- A lot of voice and video codes, as you might have expected
- Integrating with Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR by HelloSoft
- It can come with or without a full SIP stack and client on top
Me left unimpressed. Or at least a lot less impressed than the amount of publicity this PR made.
What do we have here?
This is a simple media engine that includes Opus, VP8 and the SRTP changes necessary to support WebRTC.
I’d say it is on par with Spirit-DSP’s offering or M5T.
It probably doesn’t support the WebRTC APIs – just handles the network in the same way.
I’d also assume it has no SDP parser/generator that is suitable for WebRTC built-in to the media engine itself.
This is on par with what GIPS was before getting acquired by Google, especially from the business model and concept angle.
Why is it important?
Such press releases put more confusion than understanding in the industry. It brings nothing new to the table rather than adds a few features to an existing SDK. The end result has the same business model, targeting the same old customers.
It shows that Imagination Technologies weren’t that imaginative (excuse the pun) when they took the route they had with WebRTC. This is rather sad, considering the important role they play in current day smartphone acceleration of codecs.
I believe they could have done more than stick the word WebRTC on their HelloSoft Media Engine, but that’s just me venting.
I am sure HelloSoft will find interested customers. This product, as it seems, is VERY suitable for those looking to add to their existing VoIP clients the ability to communicate with browser-based WebRTC – or for those developing mobile apps use it instead of “porting” WebRTC on their own.
A few disclaimers on this one:
- Sorry for being blunt on this one. Had a bad morning
- I haven’t been in contact with Imagination Technologies or Hellosoft in the past 5 years
- The solution in this press release is good for some vendors, but the way it is presented in the press release isn’t targeted at the potential customers, but rather at getting more eyeballs