RealTime IT News

Electronics Firms Forge Digital Interface Spec

Seven consumer electronics rivals Tuesday said they have united to work on a new digital interface specification for future appliances.

Overseen by Hitachi, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba, the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) spec, forged to accommodate digital home entertainment gadgets, combines high-definition video and multi-channel audio in one digital interface. The feat builds on the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) standard, a specification created by the Digital Display Working Group (DDWG) to fit analog and digital monitors with a single connector.

The parties behind the standard have strong interest in it because they are the makers of the digital televisions, DVD players, set-top boxes and various other products the spec was made for. The firms argue that HDMI offers clear advantages over traditional analog A/V interfaces because high-definition video and multi-channel audio are transported more cleanly. Because audio and video are piped via one cable, HDMI would present a connection alternative to the practice of using multiple analog A/V cables.

HDMI also ensures compatibility by adhering to interoperability standards created in CEA (EIA/CEA-861x). HDMI will also support many capabilities of the AV.link interoperability protocol. But most specifically and importantly, the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) for Digital Visual Interface (DVI) spec will serve as a reference point to craft HDMI. HDCP for HDMI has been approved by major movie executives.

One movie executive with technological roots approved the spec.

"We are encouraged to see these technology manufacturers endorsing a protected baseband digital interconnect specification that appeals to consumers and provides us the ability to protect our content with HDCP. HDMI/HDCP is one of the key technologies that makes D-VHS possible," said Jerry Pierce, senior vice president of technology at Universal Pictures.

The technological advance was also applauded by interactive television groups.

"As a strong supporter of DVI, we believe the formation of this working group is an important step toward delivering consumers a more robust selection of high-definition content and digital receiving devices," said David Baylor, executive vice president, DIRECTV, Inc. "By delivering signals in an uncompressed format, HDMI enables the support of user interfaces in electronic program guides and interactive features for high-definition television, all of which benefit the consumer."

An open standard, HDMI will soon be available. Licensing terms have yet to be worked out yet.