SAN JOSE, Calif. The Consumer Electronics Association will hold a meeting this fall to explore whether to form a new group to drive standards for portable and handheld systems. The move comes at a time when CEA is attempting to address the need to connect its members' traditional TV, stereo and automotive systems with a rising tide of mobile systems.
"The CE industry has clearly morphed beyond the traditional TV, stereo and car audio systems to a convergence of technologies, so it may be time for us to address these portable systems in a broad way," said Dave Wilson, director of technology and standards for the CEA.
The meeting slated for the group's Industry Forum on October 21 at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas could drive the group beyond its historical charter developing specs for audio, video and car audio systems. "To date the CEA has not done much work on portable and handheld systems," said Wilson.
One exception has been the group's work on the Portable Digital Media Interface (PDMI, CEA-2017), a 30-pin connector for media players that aims to be an alternative to the iPod interface defined by Apple Inc.
"We're trying to create an interface for portable devices such as media players and other systems to link to TVs, stereos and car audio products," said Wilson. "If we could establish a connection for the digital world as ubiquitous as the RCA plug was for analog video it would be a great help to the industry," he added.
Although ratified in April 2007, few systems use PDMI today. The working group's chairman is hopeful that will change soon, noting as many as 120 companies participated at some level in defining the spec.
"The number of companies involved indicates there's significant interest, but it usually takes a generation or two to catch on," said Dave McLaughlin who chairs the PDMI effort. "I'm expecting products using this pretty soon," he said.
"The whole thing got started when people said they wanted to design something that didn't have high royalties and limitations imposed on its use," he said, referring to the iPod connector. McLaughlin is also a business development manager for Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices group that makes the Zune media player and Xbox game console.
At press time, Apple did not respond to requests for information about the requirements for using the iPod connector.
In an effort to step into the high definition digital video age, the CEA-2017 group has a version of PDMI in the works that could support multiple protocols including USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and DisplayPort.
Initially the group explored running the 16-bit High Definition Multimedia Interface over PDI but found it used too many pins to be practical. It is currently developing a plan to run DisplayPort which uses fewer pins but can carry digital video using the same HDCP copy protection on HDMI.
The theoretical work and initial testing for the spec is finished, and the group hopes to issue a standard this year, said McLaughlin.