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Is 2007 the year of the display format wars? A look at the licensing structures of these formats reveals more

Unfortunately, consumers will be faced a total of three display standards in 2007 -- and even more in 2008. Along with HDMI, computers will start to ship with DisplayPort and the Universal Display Interface (UDI) this year.  UDI is electrically compatible with DVI and HDMI, but does not carry the same licensing fees as either and has a stripped down feature set.  DisplayPort is not compatible with any existing signaling format.

One of the primary concerns for these new standards is cost and interoperability.  Expensive HDMI and HDCP certification is cited as one of the culprits delaying AMD 690G motherboards.

High fidelity signaling backers are split into two licensing camps: one supporting the DVI-derivatives (DVI-HDCP, HDMI, UDI) and the other supporting DisplayPort. AMD, Dell, Genesis Microchip, Hewlett-Packard, Molex, NVIDIA, Philips, Samsung and Tyco Electronics are supporters of DisplayPort; Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Silicon Image, Thomson and Toshiba compose the primary backers of HDMI. A significant portion of the DisplayPort supporters also have interests in HDMI.  Earlier last year, several manufacturers including Sapphire and PowerColor announced HDMI-enabled graphics cards based on ATI GPUs. MSI also announced HDMI cards based on NVIDIA GPUs.

When DailyTech asked why HDMI was taking a long time to appear in PC products, Leslie Chard, president of HDMI Licensing LLC, said "Right now most manufacturers are considering the cost of adding HDMI to their graphics products. Since HDMI is based mainly on DVI signals, the technology is already available in graphics processors. HDMI is everywhere -- consumer electronics, home entertainment and now companies are demanding the technology for smaller handhelds. You can't beat HDMI's cross platform compatibility."

Joe Lee, director of marketing for Silicon Image, added "Card manufacturers now only have to consider ways of grabbing the sound output through the PCI Express bus and adding the cost of the physical connector. If card manufacturers can finish writing the special [drivers] needed to grab the audio, everything would be set. Windows Vista should help drive HDMI forward."

According to initial reports, DisplayPort was heralded as a royalty-free technology. As it stands today, DisplayPort is royalty free but is composed with well over 200 patents. According to VESA, the committee that overlooks over the DisplayPort standard, the intellectual property (IP) holders are not held fixed and can and may charge a "reasonable" fee for the technologies used in DisplayPort.

Chard took a shot at DisplayPort, claiming "These IP holders are free to charge royalties under RAND [Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory] terms.  Until these IP holders make a public commitment, manufacturers have no idea what this rate will be.  Moreover, additional IP holders may come forward and charge additional royalties in the future; this is especially true if the DisplayPort standard ever evolves to incorporate advanced new technologies." 

HDMI's fees are already disclosed -- $0.04 per product and a small minimal fee for the HDCP keys, if used. HDMI Licensing LCC reduced the fees associated with using the technology late last year.

The largest hurdle DisplayPort faces, besides getting out the door, is interoperability with other devices.  DisplayPort is not compatible with HDMI, UDI or DVI.  The hurdle in jumping from one signaling protocol to the other is that the DVI-derivative protocols use HDCP, DisplayPort uses DPCP and HDCP.   VESA partners claim they will develop devices that allow HDMI to DisplayPort conversion, though doing so would mitigate DPCP.  Lee points out that this is essentially against the whole principle of a content protection protocol in the first place: if someone can freely negotiate between multiple or non-existent protocols that aren't under the same certification umbrella, then why have a certification process at all?

It has not been disclosed yet as to whether or not DisplayPort implementers may be required to pay royalties for the HDCP and Display Port Content Protection (DPCP) conversion either.

As of right now, the consumer electronics playing field is blanketed with HDMI-enabled products. The technology also recently entered its 1.3 revision, supporting features such as higher resolution and deep-color (wider color gamut) -- Sony's PlayStation 3 supports HDMI 1.3.  Philips, the inventor of DisplayPort's content protection scheme DPCP, recently announced a wireless version of HDMI.

AMD is expected to launch DisplayPort compatible GPUs later this year with NVIDIA opting for the standard as well. Early last year, Silicon Image stated that UDI will end up replacing both HDMI and DVI standards on the PC when it becomes available to reduce licensing fees, though it will still be compatible with the older standards.  

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Format wars
By phatboye on 2/19/2007 9:56:35 AM , Rating: 5
Again with these stupid format wars. This is getting out of hand and I'm not going to have anything to do with any format till there is a universal standard.

I didn't invest in a 56k modem till K56FLex and X2 came together and made the .V90 Standard

I didn't invest in a DVD writer drive until dual format DVD drives were released that could handle both + and - formats

I'm not buying any Hi Def media until HDDVD and BluRay comes to some sort of agreement, one format leaves or another format takes over.

I'm not buying any HDMI, UDI or Displayport Devices until there is one format.

RE: Format wars
By thebrown13 on 2/19/2007 10:38:10 AM , Rating: 3
QFT this is getting stupid.

RE: Format wars
By cscpianoman on 2/19/2007 10:48:05 AM , Rating: 1
Maybe this is just me, but ever notice how Sony is involved not only here, but the "HD format wars" as well? Makes me wonder if it is in their corporate best interest to be involved with format wars. (Shrugs)

RE: Format wars
By thilanliyan on 2/19/2007 11:00:57 AM , Rating: 5
They are part of the electronics industry so they HAVE to choose a side on this one. Ironically Toshiba (HD-DVD proponents) are on the same side for the Displayport.

RE: Format wars
By thilanliyan on 2/19/2007 11:05:46 AM , Rating: 2
oops I meant HDMI not Displayport.

RE: Format wars
By othercents on 2/19/2007 11:24:25 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not buying any HDMI, UDI or Displayport Devices until there is one format.

So you don't have ANY HDMI or DVI devices now? This is the first time I have heard about Displayport, but HDMI has been around long enough not to worry about that format. There were millions of HD displays sold for the superbowl and I expect all of them had HDMI. It is dumb to start working on a new format when HDMI has such a hold on the market and there really isn't a reason to switch other than price.


RE: Format wars
By phatboye on 2/19/2007 12:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
Oh well I forgot my family bought a 52 inch plasma last summer with HDMI. We only bought it cause we all though HDMI would be the only cable format. But since we don't own anything that else that uses HDMI we don't use those ports.

I was planning on upgrading my crappy computer monitor once HDMI monitors and video cards became available but now that they are releasing 3 competing formats I think I am going to stick with DVI-D until this gets resolved.

RE: Format wars
By KristopherKubicki on 2/19/2007 3:03:19 PM , Rating: 2
As far as CE devices go, HDMI is already essentially universal. DisplayPort is for PCs only.

RE: Format wars
By fxnick on 2/19/2007 8:47:07 PM , Rating: 3
by time another format takes over your gonna want a new monitor etc.. thats like saying i should have never bought a VCR 10 years ago because dvd was going to replace it.

RE: Format wars
By ElJefe69 on 2/20/2007 10:57:41 AM , Rating: 3
With the new Anydvd now i think its called Anyhddvd that was talked about today, you can keep your dvi as it has destroyed those retarded rules about hdcp. yay. dvi is the same crap as hdmi just no audio. flat panel speakers are terrible anyways. my 32inch flat tube sony non hd set has 10x the better speakers as a 6000 dollar hitachi plasma. sad. same with dlp's from samsung, they suck worse. 8-10 watts! woot!

no need for audio to go to the tv for home theater. optical does it fine and dandy and actually is a better method for audio.

RE: Format wars
By Pandamonium on 2/20/2007 1:59:20 PM , Rating: 2
If it reduces the manufacturer's costs, it'll take the market over simply because all manufacturers will choose it instead. Consumers don't have the clout to effect change anymore.

RE: Format wars
By Brassbullet on 2/19/2007 8:03:09 PM , Rating: 2
Although I think you are wise to hold off for a while, waiting for a universal standard will keep you likely waiting forever.

I have a Blu-ray burner for no other reason than it was at no cost to me, but I have yet to use it for any non DVD/CD applications. My widscreen moniter supports HDCP, but my 7900 does not. I don't have Vista.

The fact is I have a lot of pretty recent hardware (CD2 4MB, 750GB HDD [broken] + Raptor as well) and yet because of a few barely missing links, the next generation video formats are completely lost to me.

I like HDMI, it works well for my HDTV and upconverting DVD player, but the cables are bloody expensive. Wireless HDMI sounds nice, but when will it arrive, how well will it work and how much will it cost?

Its interesting both graphics camps are on the DisplayPort side (probably for money reasons), and if they are how will they work with my DVI monitor?

The combination of next gen optical and display wars leaves me with no clear picture of my upgrade path, or even if any of my current equipment will be of any use to me in two years.

That said, my current computing experience is quite nice, and so I'm glad I went with something.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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