HDMI Ready for CES

The High Definition Multimedia Interface digital interface that will go a long way toward relieving concerns over copy-protection of content transmitted via DTV broadcast signals is expected to take a big step forward this week when its 1.0 specification is unveiled.

The previous version, 0.9, was introduced in June. Over the past five months, Steve Tirado, COO of Silicon Image, the chip manufacturer that is heading the effort, and others have been incorporating changes to the spec. Now that it's in 1.0 form, consumer-electronics (CE) manufacturers can begin designing systems around it, systems that should be seen at CES in January.

"We've been noodling through a lot of dweeby details to make sure that, when the consumer plugs a device in, everything is absolutely going to work," says Tirado. "The idea is to have very smooth operation of the product."

More than 100 companies took a look at spec 0.9, including CE manufacturers, set-top-box makers, silicon providers and even PC manufacturers looking to incorporate HDMI into PCs in an effort to drive PC/TV convergence. The consortium behind the standard includes CE manufacturers Hitachi, Matsushita, Philips, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba.

The HDMI interface uncompresses digital transmission signals making them too "fat" to be recorded. It's built on the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) but adds eight channels of audio to the mix.

Tirado says that FireWire, or the IEEE1394 interface, will be used for recording of signals but getting the information to the screen will require an HDMI. "HDMI isn't trying to be all things to all people, but it is trying to provide a secure method for getting movies to the screen."

Although some devices will be seen at CES 2003, consumer devices with HDMI will begin hitting the streets in 2004. In the first quarter of next year, the standard will take another step forward when the compliant test spec is implemented at HDMI testing labs.