By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
A "major national retailer" is notifying suppliers that it will require all HDMI-enabled products to go through Silicon Image's "Simplay HD" testing program, or some other third-party certification process, for compatibility and interoperability in order to qualify for its product mix in 2007, David Naranjo, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America product development director, announced at a press conference for HDMI Licensing LLC.
The move comes in reaction to the difficulty some consumers are experiencing in connecting HDMI and DVI products with uncertified HDMI or DVI devices. In many cases, non-complaint products are failing to complete a "handshake" — a process whereby products recognize and talk with one another in order to begin sending and receiving signals.
"Major retailers have made it a point that for next year they will be requiring manufacturers to have at the minimum Simplay HD certification to ensure those devices are, in fact, compatible," Naranjo said. "There is one major retailer specifically that has said unless those devices have Simplay HD or something that identifies that device as being compatible with other [HDMI] devices they will not assort that product. So, they will not carry any HDMI product that does not have compatibility certification, whether it is through Simply HD or some other third party."
Naranjo continued, "it is dominant in their mind to make sure consumers have the best experience, and when they connect different devices together, they must work."
The Simplay HD Testing Program is run by Silicon Images Simplay Labs subsidiary to catch issues that can affect interoperability between systems before consumers experience problems. Products bearing the Simplay HD logo have undergone testing related to the High-Definition Multimedia InterfaceT (HDMIT) and High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) specifications, as well as compatibility testing with a suite of other devices that have been Simplay HD verified. More than 100 products are currently authorized to use the Simplay HD logo.
Simplay Labs offers a list of some of the commercially-available Simplay HD verified products at www.simplayhd.com.
Leslie Chard, HDMI Licensing president, said his organization has taken steps to eliminate any non-compliance issues in the future.
"We released a new compliance test spec for HDMI v1.3 — called the 1.3a test spec — that requires: HDCP testing for all devices. In the first quarter of next year, every device is going to have to go through HDCP testing in addition to the basic HDMI testing," said Chard. "This is a test spec that has been reviewed and blessed by Intel subsidiary Digital CP."
For HDMI cables in particular, he said, the licensing body now offers "two categories of HDMI cable labeling — Category One and Category Two, with Category Two being high-speed that will allow manufacturers to communicate to their consumers that their cable is capable of delivering all of HDMI v1.3 functionality. A vast majority of existing cables will work with the full functionality of version 1.3."
At the press conference, Chard declared HDMI the "de facto digital connection standard for consumer electronics products." He said each version of the standard — including the latest 1.3 — was developed with forward-looking compatibility in mind and is always evolving. However, each version of the specification must be backward compatible with earlier versions of the specification – something that was not the case with some manufacturers' DVI-enabled products.
HDMI was based on the DVI interface specification and is compatible with compliant DVI devices equipped with HDCP content protection via an adapter.
HDMI v1.3 contains a list of enhanced features it will support, including more than double the bandwidth of the previous version, which will allow greater video resolutions and color depth as well as multiple compressed and uncompressed surround sound formats.
Meanwhile, some manufacturers and retailers have also expressed concerns that consumers will become confused over the numbering practice of the various HDMI versions, and will assume that any product listed as carrying an HDMI v1.3 interface, for example, will automatically provide all of the different features supported in the HDMI v1.3 specifications, which is not always the case.
Chard pointed out that HDMI version 1.0 offered support for full 1,080p high-definition video when it was first introduced, but most TV manufacturers didn't offer 1,080p input over HDMI until this year.
"HDMI specifies capabilities, not requirements," Chard said. "Consumers should look for the features that they want, and manufacturers need to come up with some consistent branding for these features," Chard said. "This is not just a struggle for HDMI, it is something that we are seeing through the HD ecosystem right now."
Chard said that HDMI v1.3 allows for over 10GBps of bandwidth supporting higher resolutions, deeper colors through use of the Sony/Mitsubishi developed xvYCC system, automatic lip sync and a range of compressed and uncompressed multi-channel surround sound formats including Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TruHD, with future support for up to 13.1 channels of surround sound.
The licensing body predicts that over 1 billion HDMI enabled devices will have shipped into the market by 2010.
On color depth, HDMI v1.3 uses xvYCC to expand from eight bits and 17 million colors under HDMI HD 1.2a to 16 bits allowing "billions if not trillions of colors," Chard said.
Mitsubishi's Naranjo said the first content carrying the extended xvYCC color capability will be video games. He said he expects studios to adopt the system for movie releases as well in the near future.
Meanwhile, Chard said the recent development of a new mini connector for HDMI will add to the format's adoption in the portable products space, including camcorders, digital still cameras and even cellphones.
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