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Companies Unite to Make UHAPI

A plan to help network various consumer devices is getting a boost this week thanks to a newly formed group of consumer electronics companies and chipmakers.

The Universal Home Application Programming Interface (UHAPI) Forum is the brainchild of the semiconductor divisions of Philips and Samsung Electronics. The firms partnered earlier this year to develop a link from audio/video-oriented consumer electronics (CE) software to operating systems, regardless of manufacturers.

Now, the two companies are joined by HP, Access and the Digital TV Industry Alliance of China (DTVIA) to help establish the specifications and drive adoption around the world.

The idea is to standardize hardware-independent application programming interfaces (APIs) for analog and digital televisions, set top boxes, DVD players, DVD recorders, personal video recorders (PVRs), home servers and other consumer A/V devices.

Despite the best efforts of groups like the Digital Living Network Alliance, today's CE devices are a quagmire of conflicting functions and features with a trend to blur the lines among traditional device categories. As a result, UHAPI members said there is an urgent need for a stable, hardware-independent API to bridge the middleware and application software from independent software vendors (ISVs) and CE vendors with the semiconductor solutions from integrated circuit (IC) manufacturers.

"With the formation of the UHAPI Forum, we will be able to work cooperatively with other companies to promote an open universal interface that will speed up introduction of new features to support a large variety of products and services in the digital convergence," Don Lee, vice president of SOC R&D Center at Samsung, said in a statement. "This forum's importance to all involved industries is clearly illustrated by the membership commitments made by other prominent companies."

The forum said it is currently working on the UHAPI 1.0 specification for analog and digital television and plans to finalize, approve and publish the spec in January 2005. A beta version of the UHAPI specification is currently available to members of the Forum.

The future UHAPI 1.1 specification will include support for DVD playback, DVD recording and PVR functionality, the group said. Other applications and consumer functions are also being looked at.

The consortium said it is also now seeking additional members to join its cause.

"To promote the UHAPI open standard together is very important for structuring a healthy industry value chain and encouraging technology innovation," Guo Ke, chairman of DTVIA said in a statement. "We hope to establish a series of open standards and associate technologies to support industry development."