The Digital Signage Insider

Hardware vs. Software for Digital Signage Solutions

Published on: 2004-06-13

While talking with a prospective client recently, I was surprised to hear that he was weighing a digital signage solution powered by our FireCast digital signage software and generic white box computer hardware versus a proprietary hardware-software combination from Sony. The hardware in question, Sony's newly announced NSP-1, a device which replaces their often touted but woefully anemic NSP-100 signage controller, released about 2 years ago. I won't get into the actual nuts and bolts of the system, nor do I want to do a product comparison against FireCast or any of our competitors' software solutions.

More to the point of things, really, is the notion of purchasing a hardware solution versus a software one. I obviously have a bias towards software systems, but that's because I am a true believer in them. Hardware-based systems cause vendor lock-in, which force a customer to rely on that vendor for everything. If you like the hardware (form factor, overall function, etc.), but hate the software, you're stuck, because they can't be separated from each other. If you want to upgrade to add a new video codec, peripheral device, or anything else, you won't be able to. If you want to add in some additional RAM or a faster CPU to be able to handle bigger and better file types, you can't, because for all intents and purposes, the device is welded shut.

At WireSpring, you'll notice that we do in fact sell a hardware device, called the FireCast Media Appliance, which is nothing more than a ruggedized industrial PC running our FireCast OS software. We're quick to tell new customers that the software can be run on practically any hardware, but for those who insist on single-sourcing deals, we're happy to sell Media Appliances. There can be certain economies from purchasing your hardware and software from the same vendor (not the least of which is that there's only one place to complain if something breaks), however I make a huge distinction between a computer, which can be upgraded or even repurposed entirely, and an "appliance," which will need to be replaced as new features are introduced, and are basically good for nothing other than their given task.

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