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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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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.


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