HDMI Wins an Emmy

Today, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) presents the founders of HDMI with the Technology & Engineering Excellence Emmy Award, in recognition of the HDMI technology standard.

Since its introduction six years ago, HDMI has become the connection of choice for HDTVs and related equipment. The high speed digital connection provides fidelity and performance that delivers the best image to a high definition screen, and can also carry digital audio over the same single cable. In contrast, a component video connection — the next best choice — requires three cables to carry the analog video signal, and still requires a separate cable or two to handle the audio.

HDMI also has the advantage of supporting digital rights management (a fancy term for “copy protection”) that allows the content providers limit what you can do with a signal that is transmitted across an HDMI connection. For example, this is intended to prevent people from making precise duplicates of Blu-ray DVDs.

The installed base for devices with HDMI connections is about 600 million units, and nearly 400 million more are expected to ship in 2009 according to market research firm In-Stat. But HDMI is not resting on its laurels. Later in the first half of 2009, the next version of HDMI will be launched. It will be backward compatible with prior versions — as has been the case for all versions released to this point — but will add new features. It will add Ethernet networking connectivity to the single HDMI cable along with the digital video and audio. This is an important feature as people get more content over the Internet.

The new standard will also support higher bandwidth applications such as 4kx2k (quad 1080p resolution) and 3D video. The audio channel feature will allow bidirectional support, so that audio can be sent from the television to other devices such as a home theater system.

The new standard will also call for a new, smaller 19 pin connector. Presumably adapters will be available to make the new cables compatible with the older HDMI connectors. An installed base of about a billion units would be a terrible thing to waste, even if they can’t support all these new features.