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HDTV-compatible PC display interface emerges

Posted by iTech - 2005-12-21

Leading PC and consumer electronics companies have announced they are developing a specification for a PC digital display interface that is also compatible with high-definition TV signals.

Penned the Unified Display Interface (UDI), the standard is expected to replace the aging VGA analog standard and provide guidelines to ensure compatibility with the DVI standard. UDI will be also be compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), the standard digital interface for High Definition TVs (HDTVs) and advanced CE displays.

UDI will be able to use High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) technology widely deployed in HDMI-compatible products today. As a result, host platforms with UDI connectors will be able to plug into monitors and HDMI-equipped display devices including HDTVs with full content-use rights management and high-definition video compatibility.

A Special Interest Group (SIG) of industry leaders has been formed to develop and continue revising the UDI specification. SIG’s principal members include Apple, Intel Corp., LG Electronics, National Semiconductor Corp., Samsung Electronics and Silicon Image Inc. Contributing members include graphics chip maker Nvidia Corp., semiconductor maker THine Electronics Inc., and cable and connector makers FCI, Foxconn Electronics Inc. and JAE Electronics Inc.

Although the SIG is not expected to finalize the UDI Version 1.0 spec until the second quarter of 2006, UDI’s proponents are confident the interface be adopted, and will serve as a key bridge in the anticipated convergence between the TV and PC.

“We’re talking about a PC with a single connector that can hook up high-definition TVs,” said Joe Lee, director of product marketing, PC/Display Products at Silicon Image (Sunnyvale, Calif.), which helped develop the interface.

In an interview with EE Times, Lee said that the differences between the proposed UDI spec and HDMI spec are minor, and noted that the governing body for HDMI, the HDMI Founders, are supporting the idea aligning both specs for long-term compatibility.

"The HDMI Founders support the development of PC products that are compatible with HDMI," said Les Chard, president of HDMI Licensing LLC, in a statement. "We are cooperating with the UDI Promoters to ensure compatibility between HDMI and UDI devices in the CE and PC industries."

On the PC level, Silicon Image’s Lee expects UDI to replace the antiquated VGA spec, developed 18 years ago for analog CRTS but woefully inadequate for digital liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors showing high-resolution images.

“LCD monitors could drop substantially in price, as you can rip out much of the electronics such as analog-to-digital conversion circuitry,” Lee said.

UDI will also be backward compatible with displays having the Digital Video Interface (DVI), a video standard Lee claims has fallen short of promise because it is not cost-effective for graphics chipsets and suffers from the lack of a compliance spec. UDI will accommodate proven high-bandwidth technology based on PCI Express and HDMI's Transition Minimized Differential Signaling (TMDS) and allow use of a small, lower cost connector with optional locking retention.

Lee also believes UDI can replace the S-Video interface now present on many laptops, a connection suited for low-resolution TV signals but not the high-resolution signals required by next-generation audiovisual equipment.

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