Sometimes you write or edit something that you know will set off a firestorm with readers. Other times, you think you’ve got it completely right, but hit a hot button anyway. Sometimes, all it takes is one wrong word.
Last month, I edited a supplement to Residential Systems, called The Integration Guide to HDMI,” where these seemingly innocuous words were written in the introduction:
HDMI has been on the market for nearly seven years, a time frame in which its rapid development can be charted from a misused, misunderstood connector to preferred cable of choice for end-users on both sides of the consumer electronics market… Even though HDMI now enjoys universal acceptance among consumer electronics professionals, its growing pains have been well documented and its capabilities and limitations are still not fully understood by many in and out of the field. This lack of knowledge has not been helped by unclear standards and product labels that have done more to confuse consumers than enlighten them about how powerful an HDMI cable can really be.
I wouldn’t call a single negative reader e-mail “a firestorm,” exactly, but apparently this one reader took extreme umbrage to the use of the word “acceptance” in our intro. I had allowed the word, innocently enough, because a) it was offset by the reference to the problems that integrators and consumers had experienced over the years and b) I actually did believe that things had gotten better in recent years. Oh I’m so naïve!
In essence, the email said this:
“My company has been in business for over 20 years and has never seen the A/V industry headed in such a dead end approach to connectivity as when the HDMI cable was proposed… The force of the movie studios, with help of a few component manufacturers who have vested interest in securing Digital Signals, have hand tied the custom integrator which I feel will put more limits on what can be offered, then to open the gauntlet of innovation and integration to 80 percent of the integratable products available today.”
After receiving the note, I placed a call with an industry friend Jeff Boccaccio, founder of DPL Labs, which tests and certifies HDMI products. I shared the reader’s letter with Boccaccio thinking that he would be on my side. Boccaccio, however, didn’t choose sides, and admitted that he gets “30-60 calls per week” from integrators who are still having trouble with HDMI. I was pretty shocked, but have since come to terms with the reason why.
Boccaccio explained that every time HDMI changes versions (most recently from 1.3 to 1.4) compatibility issues arise. He said that when 1.3 was added, there were still integrators have problems with 1.2 products, for instance. The switch to 1.3 added Deep Color, which became a big tax on bandwidth and needed to communicate with brand-new Blu-ray players that had 1080p resolution and needed more bandwidth. Often times, he said, the silicon needed for the bandwidth of the spec is not actually available to manufacturers at the time a new HDMI version comes out.
I followed up my call to Boccaccio with an email to the reader who’d objected to the HDMI supplement in the first place. He said he appreciated my response and admitted that he does “not put the blame on technology in general advancing a method of connectivity… but on the outside forces that have caused it to be the most difficult and unstable method ever produced.”
If you want to learn a lot about how to navigate through the rough terrain that still is HDMI, then I definitely recommend signing up for a class by Boccaccio (http://www.dpllabs.com), but for more immediate gratification, check out CEDIA’s HDMI webinar on August 12, from 3-4 p.m. EST.
Led by Steve Venuti of HDMI LLC, the webinar will describe what’s new in HDMI 1.4a, such the HDMI Ethernet Channel, Audio Return Channel, and 3D. Find out how these new features can help grow your business and get all the answers from the organization responsible for the HDMI standard.
It’s also a good time to raise those tough questions that I know you still have. Click here to register.