Making HDTV Pieces Play Nice

As I write in Professor Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV, you need three parts in order to get a true HDTV experience: Display + Signal + Content = HDTV. If you don’t have all three, you will get nothing better than your old-fashioned Standard Definition television experience, or maybe even worse.

One of the big problems, however, is knowing whether all the pieces you assemble will work together. Two new initiatives are working to help consumers by certifying that different components are compatible.

The High Definition Audio Video Network Alliance — HANA — was launched a week ago with a roster that includes heavyweights such as Mitsubishi, JVC, Samsung, and Sun Microsystems. The goal is to make it easy to view and control HD content across a home network, using just a single cable to make the connection. A single set-top box will be able to provide content throughout the house, and connect easily to displays, storage devices, and sound systems.

Intel also has created its Viiv Technology, which is the company’s effort to create PCs that work with other home entertainment devices to share content and distribute it across home networks. Intel will test and certify products and applications that will work together with the Intel-based systems. In November, the company announced that more than 40 other companies were working on products and content services that would be tested and verified for Viiv Technology compatibility, and that they would start to appear in the first quarter of 2006.

Both of these efforts can only be good news for consumers. Whether we need both, and whether the broader industry approach of HANA or the Intel-driven Viiv initiative will be more useful remain to be seen. I expect that both will be making a lot of noise in two weeks at CES, so expect to hear more from me about it after that.