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DVI Wins Multi-Industry Support

Just as Hollywood’s major studios were signing off on a copy protection solution for the IEEE-1394 digital interface, multi-industry support was also announced for the Digital Visual Interface (DVI), heralding the arrival of dual digital interfaces for digital television products.

Key companies announcing support for DVI include: CableLabs, developing organization of the OpenCable specification; DirecTV and EchoStar’s DISH Network, the Fox Entertainment Group, the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Co., Thomson Multimedia and Warner Bros.

Along with DVI, support was announced for the copy protection system that matches with it — high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP). The combination will allow transmission of uncompressed digital content between various set-top boxes and television monitors.

The DVI interface has been supported by many manufacturers of digital television display products that are based on digital engines such as DLP, D-ILA, LCD, LCOS and plasma. However, it is more problematic when used with traditional CRT-based display systems that are analog in nature.

One of the drawbacks of DVI so far is that because it delivers uncompressed broadband signals, it is not compatible with currently available consumer-based video recorders, which critics have argued may be one reason some Hollywood studios have supported it.

Therefore, even without copy protection, there is currently no practical means of recording DVI signals or sending them over the Internet, critics have said. It also is not currently economically practical to use DVI connections in a digital home entertainment network.

However, most of those who have signed on with DVI have also signed on with IEEE-1394, indicating that both formats will be employed in some manner. CableLabs was an early backer of 1394 in the OpenCable spec, and Sony was one of the developers of the Digital Transmission Copy Protection (DTCP) system used with 1394.

Supporters of DVI said the broad bandwidth “supports real-time complex graphics displays and user interfaces found in program guides and other interactive features for high-definition digital television. The sheer capacity delivered via the DVI connection permits display devices to fully support features developed by content and set-top box providers that enrich and enhance the overall user experience.”

Proponents also say that industrywide support for the new protected interface will ensure consistent standards and foster greater availability of high-definition video content with optimum viewing for up to 85 million households in the United States, as well as high-definition set-top boxes and display devices.

Beginning next year, all DirecTV-licensed consumer electronic manufacturers will begin to incorporate a DVI connector with high-bandwidth digital content protection into new DirecTV-enabled high-definition digital set-top boxes, according to the DBS provider’s statement.

“Cross-industry acceptance of DVI/HDCP ensures both content providers and set-top box and display device manufacturers the flexibility of securely offering more high-quality, high-definition content, which ultimately benefits the consumer,” said David Baylor, executive vice president, DirecTV. “DirecTV has taken the initiative to support this new digital interface to ensure that there will be a greater selection of high-definition content and digital receiving devices available to consumers in the future.”

But Bob Perry, Mitsubishi Digital Electric America marketing VP and vocal opponent to DVI, again avowed not to include DVI on any Mitsubishi products.

“Mitsubishi is a licensed DirecTV partner, and Mitsubishi has no intention of bringing to market any product using DVI,” Perry said.

Perry reasserted his belief that satellite TV providers were backing DVI at the direction of content rights owners whose intention is to protect their property by ultimately interfering with the ability to record digital television programs with available and affordable recording devices. A spokesperson for DirecTV said that DirecTV licensed partners who want to use IEEE-1394 interfaces along with DVI on their DirecTV tuner equipment would probably be allowed to do so.

Similarly, “DISH Network does recommend the use of 1394CP (5C or DTCP) as the interface between recordable high-definition devices while DVI/HDCP should become the standard for connection to the display device,” said Dave Kummer, senior vice president of engineering at EchoStar, adding a DVI interface is being added to the company’s next generation HDTV receiver.

Kummer said, “DVI with HDCP will be a key component to expanding DISH Network HDTV programming and equipment offerings that allow for digital video recording (DVR) and Web browsing functionality by providing uncompressed video data to the television monitor. If the connection from the set-top to the TV were limited to only 1394CP (5C), these functions would be much more difficult to achieve.”

“The addition of DVI in both set-top receivers and digital HDTV displays is important to the consumer because it opens new opportunities for expanded availability of HDTV programming,” said Thomson’s Tim Saeger, vice president, research & development. “We view the addition of DVI as an enabler for viewers to access the best of satellite home entertainment with the most realistic video performance available today.”

Andy Paul, senior vice president, government affairs of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, said, “The DVI standard will allow the satellite industry to provide its ultra-high digital picture resolution and delivery to a multitude of uses and formats for digital home distribution.”

CableLabs also viewed DVI as giving digital cable platforms increased flexibility.

Richard Green, CableLabs president and CEO said, “We believe support of DVI will complement the cable industry’s support of the 1394 interface with 5C copy protection, which dates back to 1998. Cable is still committed to the 1394/5C interface, and intends to support both DVI and 1394/5C on set-top boxes designed for connection to high-definition television sets.’

Andrew G. Setos, Fox Entertainment Group broadcast operations and engineering senior VP, said, “Everyone wins as consumer expectations for high-quality images and functionality will be met, and at the same time these technologies will protect the content they carry.”

Phil Lelyveld, vice president of digital industry relations at The Walt Disney Company added, “Secure interconnections such as HDCP are important elements of an overall content delivery system, addressing a key need in the development of new channels for high-quality digital content delivery.”

“By providing a secure connection for high-quality high-definition television delivery into new digital TV’s, HDCP is the important link that opens up exciting new program choices for consumers,” said Chris Cookson, executive vice president/chief technology officer for Warner Bros.

Jared Jussim, Sony Pictures Entertainment executive VP called adoption of HDCP “a double plus – a plus for consumers and a plus for content providers.”

A spokesperson for CEA said that “even when we announced the 1394 agreement we acknowledged that it wasn’t likely to be the only interface adopted and 5C [DTCP] would not be the only content protection system. What’s best for the consumer is better understanding of digital television products and we are currently working on a labeling system for product compatibility.”

However, those compatibility labels do not include any nomenclature for DVI at this time, she acknowledged.