TI is in a pinch, and its OEMs are going to feel the pain. Studios have long been asking TI to redesign the input board of its projector to meet DCI requirements. The Gore board compromise to the problem has been discussed in past reports. But the Gore board was for the current series of projectors, now known as Series 1, and the Gore board does not meet DCI specifications.
To meet DCI, TI began work on a new reference design, known as the Series 2 projector. A requirement of the new design was support for 4K, although TI didn’t commit to a 4K imaging chip until earlier this year. While the Series 2 development is a positive response to the requirements of studios, it is late. Not trusting TI to carry through with the redesign in a timely manner, most studios are holding TI’s feet to the fire by refusing to deliver movies to Series 1 projectors sold after December 31st of this year.
While the challenge for TI to deliver its new reference design has been substantial, the challenge is even greater for its OEMs. The manufacturers do not have the luxury of separate engineering groups for manufacturing and design, and have had to shift talent away from production to create new Series 2 products. In addition to the hit to manufacturing, the OEMs need to forecast production so as not to hold Series 1 inventory into 2010. As can be imagined, this is much easier said than done. If forecasts are short, they lose sales for 3-D projectors to be installed for Avatar. If the forecasts are too optimistic, they could be left holding costly and unsaleable inventory into 2010.
Every possible scenario has occurred, with some OEMs facing dead inventory come 2010, and at least one OEM concerned about running short on Series 1 inventory. TI is attempting to woo studios into a more manufacturer-friendly transition, but unilateral progress on this front has yet to be reported, if not simply too late to do any good.
Ramp-up time for Series 2 manufacturing varies among the OEMs. Barco appears to be furthest along, while the others are catching up. The pressure is substantial. If Series 2 designs are not ready for production on January 1, sales will presumably be lost.
If these pressures weren’t enough, pain is spilling into the server community. Early Series 2 projectors, delivered prior to May 2010, will not have the ability to render open subtitles or captions. TI began the design work for subtitles late. As a result, only early Series 2 projectors coupled with a Doremi server will have such capability, as only the Doremi server has the option to render subtitles in the server. (It would seem that some clever manipulation of TI took place by Doremi to achieve such a coup.) Those users requiring subtitles and a server other than Doremi will simply postpone their purchases, further impacting sales.