LAS VEGAS Silicon Image Inc. rolled out Monday (Jan. 7) technology and chips to bring its high-end wired High Definition Multimedia Interface to mobile devices including digital cameras, portable media players and cellphones. Whether HDMI can extend its dominance in digital TVs to the mobile world was an open question at this week's Consumer Electronics Show.
The new option comes at a time when consumer companies are experimenting with a broad range of wireless options including Wi-Fi, ultrawideband and 60 GHz radios for their 2009-class products. In addition, a future variant of version 3.0 of wired USB aims to link digital TVs and mobile devices.
With new alternatives still jumping into the ring, it's unclear what approach will become the primary video highway between TVs and other devices in the digital home.
Silicon Image (Sunnyvale, Calif.) will start sampling in February chips for its Mobile High Definition Link. MHL pares down the three Transition Minimized Differential Signaling channels in a standard HDMI connection to just one. A streamlined transmitter is embedded in the mobile device and a full HDMI bridge chip is put in a separate wired cradle the OEM would have to design.
The result is a 2.25 Gbit/s link consuming 60 mW average on the mobile device and running over five pins that can be mapped to any existing connector on the device. It aims to carry up to full 1080-progressive video encrypted with HDMI's High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP).
Silicon Image is not announcing costs of the chips, which will be in production in late 2008. However it did say total costs would be about the same as a full HDMI link on a TV. OEMs will have to pay the standard four cents per port HDMI royalty, and pass compliance tests at existing HDMI certification facilities.
The MHL work is based on an earlier design from Silicon Image called UDI originally aimed at PCs and notebooks. Computer makers decided to go their own route, developing the DisplayPort specification in the Video Electronics Standards Association.
Silicon Image has been selling low power versions of its HDMI chips into high resolution video cameras for two years. MHL marks a significant expansion of that effort aiming for design wins in media players and cameras in 2008 and in cellphones as early as 2009.
Long term, MHL plays into a broader initiative quietly in the works at the company to define a Personal Entertainment Network that Silicon Image may roughly describe at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Both PEN and MHL are attempts to leverage the company's success in digital TVs where as many as 100 million systems use HDMI today, a number expected to rise to as much as 250 million by the end of 2010.
"MHL is not part directly of our PEN initiative, but it complements it," said Stevan Eidson, a director of product marketing for the MHL chips. "PEN is moving along fine, but I would not expect to see devices [based on it] in 2008," he added.
Separately the USB Implementer's Forum will roll out in 2008 a variant of USB designed to move compressed high def video between displays and mobile devices. The group claims the technology will be complementary to HDMI which typically carries uncompressed video.
A spokesman for the USB group said developers could layer HDMI's HDCP encryption on top of the new USB variant. No other details were available about the effort.