Silicon Image announced this week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco that video card makers ATI and Nvidia are designing reference graphics cards utilizing Silicon Image technology to implement support for HDMI interfaces. In addition, the Intel 2006 graphics chipset will incorporate similar Silicon Image technology to support HDMI on Intel platforms with PCI Express. Both systems will implement the HDMI 1.2 specification.
HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is an all-digital standard for high-definition audio and video, capable of pushing 1080p digital video and up to 8 channels of 192Khz audio over a single connection with bandwidth to spare. HDMI is already emerging in consumer electronics systems, particularly on home theater systems and high-definition displays. Adding HDMI capabilities to computer graphic systems enables those computers to more fully function as media hubs, particularly when combined with technologies such as Windows Media Center, other PVR software or networked devices, and built-in DVD players. Silicon Image did not release any information on whether the HDMI support from these manufacturers will also handle HDMI’s audio capabilities; however, it’s generally expected that first-generation HDMI products for computers will omit audio support in favor of dedicated audio inputs on another device, or in anticipation that consumers will be routing audio to a system other than their computer.
A potential downside to HDMI is HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), a digital rights management specification from Intel Corporation intended to protect “premium” content carried over HDMI. Not surprisingly, HDMI has received support from Microsoft and other major players in the so-called “Content Cartel” of large media companies while drawing fire from fair-use advocates, entrepreneurs, and content creators. HDCP doesn’t require consumers to enter passwords or otherwise authenticate themselves to view content over HDMI connections; rather, HDCP is intended to prevent unauthorized capture and/or decryption of protected content over the HDMI interface, and ensure only “authorized” devices function when connected via HDMI; this, in turn, impacts what users can do with HDMI equipment, what sort of equipment can be built to work with HMDI systems, or what content creators can do with their own material using HDMI.