“Is the digital signage industry leaning more toward player-less displays than the traditional approach of media player and display? Are there any concerns about performance when going with a SoC display?”
The signage industry is an ever-changing landscape of technology. Advancements in technology usually aim to reduce cost, improve performance and simplify integration. System-on-Chip (SoC) displays are one of the recent revolutionary technologies that promise to deliver on all three of those points.
SoC displays come in a few different flavors regarding operating system, but essentially, they are displays with their own built-in compact computer. This means they can replace physical external media players, which can save companies a considerable amount of money when deploying large networks. Forgoing an external media player also means there are fewer components required for installation, which in turn saves time and a bit more money. Since the displays have a build-in media player, there are also fewer components to break and need repair. This can improve the maintenance costs of the network over time and reduce the amount of service taking place in the field.
For those reasons alone, using SoC displays sounds like a grand slam and a worthy investment for some digital signage networks, which is true, but I would argue that SoC displays are not able to replace all external media players quite yet.
One of the major drawbacks to SoC displays is power and performance. At this moment, there will always be a need for more powerful [external]media players that are capable of handling more complex content strategies and screen arrangements. For example, large LCD and LED video walls that operate at ultra-high resolutions will still leverage a powerful PC, especially if they are configured at non-standard aspect ratios or in a mosaic pattern. Special content requirements may also need to leverage external media players to accommodate custom software that is needed to display advanced generative and/or interactive content. In fact, you may want to consider what CMS features are supported when using a SoC display as your media player. Not every CMS platform comes full featured when running on SoC, and that could dramatically limit your content strategy as well.
Overall, the value of SoC displays is apparent where applicable. They are a simplified and clean option for networks that have a simplified content strategy and basic requirements. SoC displays are a welcomed addition to the technology within the industry, but I do not see them replacing external media players completely any time soon. I do, however, see plenty of networks that utilize a combination of player times for distinct applications across their footprint, with SoC displays handing a bulk of the standard endpoints and more powerful media players handling the large spectacular installations.