Creative licenses X-Fi

Written by Brett Thomas

April 18, 2007 | 10:28

Tags: #sound-card #x-fi

Companies: #auzentech #creative

What you're about to read may not sound big, but in the larger picture it may be some of the largest industry news this year.

Auzentech, a company that manufactures soundcards based on licensed chipsets, will be launching a card developed around the Creative X-Fi chipset later this year.

We actually got the news from a random press release that just happened to stumble upon one of our email boxes. Now, why should you care what some third-party company does with the X-Fi? Because it's exactly that -- a third party.

Creative has been known throughout the industry for its tight control of (and its dominance over) the sound card market. Since the development of the first SoundBlaster, it's stood as a brand identity in the marketplace.

This has been helped by the company's insistence to "carry" the product from start to finish. Creative has always released its products under its own name, making it not only the chip designer, but the board partner, warranty and support fallback, and every other hassle that comes with being the last stand before an end-user.

Now, it looks like the company may be taking a route similar to Nvidia did. X-Fi is a strong brand name in and of itself thanks to some great marketing, and the chip's reviews speak for themselves. Because of that, it seems Creative is starting to find some of its own board partners in former competitors such as Auzentech, licensing the X-Fi technology and supplying the chips whilst leaving production headaches to the other guys.

This could be great for the market as a whole, as the X-Fi is a pretty expensive investment on its own. In fact, the price tag was about the only thing most people can complain about. Licensed board partners selling the product for Creative could reduce the cost to an end user by a fair bit by letting Creative do what it does best - get paid for a good design, rather than board production, marketing, etc.

This return to "core competency" could net the company some big dividends in the short run, which could get reinvested into better R&D for new products for us in the long run. It also means board partners could diversify the prices and product offerings out there, leading to a greater variety of products to suit individual needs.

We had started to be tipped off to the transformation back in January with MSI's announcement of on-board X-Fi, but the pieces didn't totally fit back then. Of course, if that were all we had to go on, the future might still be a little murky -- the P6N-Diamond is still not to market. However, between MSI getting a hold of the chip for on-board and Auzentech getting third-party licensing rights, we could be watching a pretty big metamorphosis that will affect how your computer makes noise for years to come.

Have you got a thought on the potential? Tell us about it in our forums. Oh, but don't worry if we don't hear you right away, we have the surround-sound cranked up pretty high at the moment...
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