Why I think the news about Zidoo releasing RK3368 Kodi modifications is important

Zidoo announced today that they are releasing the source modifications for Kodi for both the existing Zidoo X1 product (Allwinner H3) and the soon-to-be-released Zidoo X6 (Rockchip RK3368).

A company releasing source code modifications for a GPL-ed product isn't normally news-worthy (that's how GPL works), but things are a little more complicated when it comes to Chinese brands.
See, a mini PC based on a SoC (let's take Rockchip RK3368 for instance) is sold under many Chinese brands. Some of them are simply changing the chassis and the box, even selling "generic" devices (no brand name, just a product name). Those are usually the cheapest and when you see them for sale you might think that they have the "fair price" and more established brands are charging you "extra" for "gimmicks" like a better-looking box or maybe that the difference in price is for the "brand".

But this is almost never true.
The final cost for a product must reflect the hardware (obviously) but there are also two other variables: software development and licenses.

For the cheapest products you won't get any firmware updates from the "manufacturer", as they don't have a software development team and once they've sold it they move on to the next device.
Programmers aren't cheap - not even in China - and having access to SDK's bears an additional cost, so Chinese Mini PC manufacturers seldom have their own development teams.
When they do (like Zidoo does), you can be sure that their products will be a little more expensive, as these programmers need to be paid.
But do you want a product that will get updates (both improvements and bugfixes) or one that could have bugs that never get resolved?
Just a few days ago, Zidoo released an update for their X9 product that was released last year - if you take a closer look at the updates history for products with the same SoC you'll notice that Zidoo provided updates regularly while the others not so much.

What I'm trying to say here is that software updates do matter.

Which brings us to the third variable in the cost of a Mini PC : licenses.
In order to put a Mini PC on the market you need to pay not only for the hardware/PCBA, but also for a lot of other intangible things.
Does your device play Mp3 files? you need to pay for the license. DTS? need to pay again. DVD, BluRay ISO? more money need to be paid.
Does you mini PC have a wi-fi chip? Need to pay Sisvel a fee.
How about HDMI, does you mini PC have an HDMI port? if so, you need to pay US$10,000 per year.
And these are just a few examples.

Will it surprise you to hear that many Chinese brands simply ignore this? and that there are some very established brands that are not part of "HDMI Adopters" although all products they sell have HDMI ports?

Licensing costs might make your product cost 10-15 USD for each unit - and in a very competitive market as these little devices are in, that's a LOT. Not to mention the end-user price is usually below $100, so licensing costs are a big chunk of the end user price.
That's why some manufacturers have two versions for the same product, one for "local market" (China) and one for "overseas" - in China not having all licenses paid isn't the end of the world, while doing the same for a product sold in Germany, for instance, might get them into trouble.

There you go, that's why what looks to be the same product is sold on the same online store for very different prices : more established brands (like Zidoo) will pay for their own development team, and will pay for (most of) the licenses used. The cheaper ones do not.

That's not to say that all MiniPC's are in one of the above situations. But that's the general idea.

So, knowing his, do you still think that breaking a GPL code is such a big thing?
Well it is. Breaking GPL means you profit form other people's work, which is not fair, is it?

So that's why Zidoo's move is impressive (during the circumstances).
Zidoo managed to create an ever-growing good reputation for themselves in a very short time (company itself is very young).

Unlike most Chinese companies involved in this business, they tend to have a more western attitude, investing in both products and people - as I've said they have a pretty good development team to go with their excellent sales team and that really makes a difference.

But until recently they preferred to hold on to their Kodi-based work and not to release it (because other manufacturers can simply take their hard work and use it for their own RK3368/H3 products).
That changed just now, and I'm happy that it did. Zidoo now evolved into a more trustworthy brand.

It was a long rant and if you got this far, let's see what Zidoo actually released to cause this excitement.

Zidoo logo
  • 16GB
    ROM
  • 2GB
    RAM
  • 8
    GPU
  • 8
    CPU

Zidoo X6 Pro

  • OS
  • Wi-Fi
  • LAN
    Gbit
  • CHIPSET
    Rockchip RK3368
  
Rating
4 - 1

Zidoo X6 Pro

Zidoo's modifications are for Kodi 15.1.
Rockchip RK3368 SDK is required, what Zidoo couldn't release.
Contents:
- 3D MVC support
- 7.1CH HD Audio passthrough
- hardware decoding within Kodi
Before building Kodi a patch for ffmpeg is needed ("kodi-ffmpeg-patch-20150910.patch").
Links:
- Github
- Kodi forum

Zidoo logo
  • 8GB
    ROM
  • 1GB
    RAM
  • 8
    GPU
  • 4
    CPU

Zidoo X1

  • OS
  • Wi-Fi
  • LAN
    100M
  • CHIPSET
    Allwinner H3
  
Rating
3 - 1

Zidoo X1

As expected, there was way less excitement about the Allwinner H3 code release from Zidoo, but there's still some interesting stuff here.
Contents:
- [email protected]
- 5.1CH HD Audio passthrough
- hardware decoding within Kodi
Links:
- Github
- Kodi forum