In my last post, I commented about USB 3.0. I made the comment that “I like simple technological advances that I can explain to my Uncle Dominic.”
Well, the new HDMI 1.4 isn’t one of those.
Sometimes I think that the consumer electronics industry comes up with stuff that offers nothing, just so that they can have something new to get us minions to part with our hard-earned cash.
Now, for those who don’t live and breathe this stuff, here’s what you need to know. HDMI is currently the best digital technology around for connecting up your HD equipment (ie, your HDTV to your HD cable box or Blu-Ray DVD player, for example). The folks at the HDMI Consortium are tasked with the job of maintaining the standards on this stuff (and charging hefty licensing fees for same; hey, we all have to eat, right?) So in 2006, they released “version 1.3” of their specification. In practice, it didn’t really catch on until a year later, and the truth is, even now, most equipment out there can’t take advantage of all the apparent features that it promotes.
So rather than let the industry catch up with them, they go ahead and release a new version 1.4, packed with still more features that no one can take advantage of. In their defense, theoretically, someday, someone somewhere will start to produce this equipment and all the problems of the world will come to and end. In the meantime, it’s comforting to know that soon there will be even more confusion about HDMI cables than there currently is.
Here’s what’s in store with the new specification:
- A standard for automotive HDMI cables, since it’s critical that the kids in the back seat have full HD on their in-car televisions.
- An Ethernet channel over HDMI, meaning, the HDMI cable can now transmit info back and forth to the internet. I’m actually reserving judgment on this one; we’ll see how it plays out.
- A distinction between “standard HDMI” and “High Speed HDMI” cables, the latter of which would deliver more bells and whistles (ie, support for higher resolutions and more colors). Unfortunately, these cables will come “with Ethernet” or “without Ethernet”, which, I fear, is likely to cause more confusion if customers buy the “wrong” cable.
- A new, “Micro” HDMI connector, intended for use with smaller equipment such as cell phones or MP3 players. This wouldn’t bother me, except for the fact that they introduced a “mini” HDMI connector previously. The more different connector types there are out there, the more likely it is that consumers will buy the wrong thing. My only hope is that manufacturers will start to phase out the mini connectors in favor of the micro connectors.
- Support for 3-D video. Again, you’ll have to run out and buy a new television, and upgrade your cable TV or satellite service — once they start offering this feature — but then you’ll be the envy of all your friends. And when that tiger literally jumps out of the screen, there won’t be a dry seat in the house.
Don’t get me wrong, I like technological developments, but make no mistake, there’s going to be a fair amount of customer confusion over this stuff.
Look for HDMI 1.4 cables to become commonplace in time for the Christmas shopping season. Somehow, I doubt there will be much equipment to take advantage of them, and, times being what they are, not as many folks ready to run out and lay down cash for a new TV when the industry just finished convincing them to do that last year.