ZTE’s ZTE9 joint venture unveiled a Tegra 4-based media player and game console, and ZTE announced an IPTV/OTT STB, both featuring Android and video chat.
Like Huawei, ZTE is a major Chinese telecom equipment provider that has more recently moved aggressively into mobile devices. They primarily serve up Android phones and tablets, but ZTE has also been the major hardware vendor behind Firefox OS, along with China’s TCL/Alcatel, recently announcing the Firefox OS based ZTE Open C and Open II. Now it’s expanding its Android portfolio with two very different TV set-top boxes (STBs): the FunBox and the MeBox.
ZTE’s FunBox and MeBox
The FunBox is a media player and gaming console built by a ZTE9 Limited joint venture between ZTE Mobile Devices and Chinese video gaming firm The9 Limited. The ZTE MeBox comes from ZTE’s mainstream IPTV group, and is one of the company’s first over-the-top (OTT) triple-play IPTV STBs to run Android. Both devices are notable for offering built-in video chat functionality.
Finally, ZTE announced it had joined ARM’s Linux tools non-profit Linaro as a club member, and noted that in April it will “debut a series of landmark 4G LTE smartphones.” This presumably refers in part to the recently announced 6-inch Grand Memo II LTE phablet, which runs a heavily skinned Android 4.4 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor.
ZTE, which claims to be one of the top five handset manufacturers in the world, recently split off its Mobile Devices division to give it more autonomy. The company rebounded in 2013 from a rough patch in 2012, and has moved aggressively into LTE technology.
The FunBox appears to be the debut product from ZTE9 Limited, a new joint venture between ZTE Mobile Devices and The9 Limited, the developer of games such as FireFall. The media player and game console markets are fairly new to ZTE. It currently offers an Android 2.3 based ZTE V35 media player built around a 1GHz Rockchip 2918. ZTE9 Limited had few details on the FunBox, but it looks to be a quantum leap forward, running Android on an Nvidia Tegra 4 system-on-chip.
(click image to enlarge)
According to ZTE9 Limited, the FunBox is “the highest performance home entertainment console currently available globally.” Its Tegra 4 SoC, the precursor to the new Tegra K1, is equipped with four 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 cores and a 72-core GeForce GPU, and supports 4K UltraHD TV resolutions. Other Android-based media player and gaming devices based on the Tegra 4 include NanoTech Entertainment’s Nuvola NP-1 and Nvidia’s own Nvidia Shield mobile game console.
The FunBox is also billed as the first home entertainment console to support video chat. It features a Bluetooth controller and dual-antenna, dual-frequency WiFi, presumably referring to the new 802.11ac. The device is further equipped with 2GB DDR3L RAM and 8GB of flash.
Initially targeting the Chinese market, the FunBox ships in 12 different colors, and in the future, will be available in personalized versions with customized casings, says ZTE9. Online sales for the FunBox will start on JD.com in April, says the company.
“The FunBox will be supported by a comprehensive ecosystem that encompasses hardware, content and channels,” stated Adam Zeng, Chairman of ZTE9 Limited.
The ZTE MeBox also runs on Android and offers similar IPTV functions and video chat, but is built by an entirely different division. It’s primarily targeted at OEM sales to TV providers. Last summer, the company claimed to be the world’s second largest manufacturer of IPTV equipment , which includes everything from head-end equipment to Linux- and Android based set-tops.
The MeBox STB box offers OTT (over-the-top) triple-play services, combining traditional cable and broadcast TV services with Internet access. Linux is far more established in the STB world than Android, although the latter has been on the move. Other OTT STBs based on Android include the Antik Technology Juice Extreme 2.
Optimized for H.264 video decoding, the “lightweight” ZTE MeBox (ZXV10 B760E) is based on ZTE’s Convergent Network Video Platform. In addition to TV and IPTV services, it supports remote surveillance, videoconferencing, multi-screen interaction and screen-casting, and home media storage and sharing, says the company. No other details were provided.
“With a unique design of introducing a cloud-management personal assistant, the MeBox can quickly learn user preferences and behaviors, automatically search for relevant OTT content, and cache them closer to the user in advance,” stated Frank Fang, Vice President at ZTE.
ZTE joins Linaro
This week ZTE also announced it had joined Linaro as a club member. The not-for-profit company and de facto standards organization is owned by ARM and some of its top licensees and helps develop and standardize Linux and Android tools for ARM processors. The collaboration with Linaro will touch on ZTE products including mobile devices, servers, Core Network products, and IPTV and “SmartHome” devices, says ZTE.
“At the recent Linaro Connect in Macau, we [Linaro and ZTE] started to work together on new technologies, built around the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture as well as initiatives such as Linaro’s Long-term Supported Kernel (LSK),” stated David Rusling, CTO at Linaro. “LSK is a key delivery mechanism for both ARMv7-A and ARMv8-A. As well as supporting operating systems such as Android and Firefox OS, LSK allows us to pull together and demonstrate advanced kernel features that are needed for products now and in the future.”
ZTE touted its long-time support for open source, including being a member of the Linux Foundation and the Android Open Handset Alliance (OHA). It also noted that as early as 2002 — six years before the first Android smartphone — ZTE introduced a Linux-based smartphone.
Digging into the way-back machine — i.e., the LinuxDevices Archives — we did not find a 2002 phone, but did spot a circa-2005 ZTE e3 camera phone based on Linux. The clamshell device featured a 1.3-megapixel camera, video and audio playback, an Opera web browser, and a unique pivoting touchscreen. The Linux stack was based on the Qtopia Phone Edition from Trolltech, the Norwegian firm that developed Qt, and was acquired by Nokia in 2008.