Significance on Desktop

The first question that should pop into your head right now is why we would need HDMI on the PC when it physically does the job of DVI – particularly considering how few people actually use DVI instead of analog connections! The answer is, again, copy protection. If we take a step back and look at the larger plans for PCs and media devices in general, the obvious trend becomes the PC’s integral role as an entire entertainment system with considerable weight on Media Center, DVDs, etc. For large content providers like Viacom, Starz! and Discovery Channel to get on board with Microsoft’s dream of IP TV, media center “servers” and set top boxes running stripped-down PC hardware, the obvious scrutiny on security comes to mind as well. No major content providers would consider the Media Center vision if they didn’t feel that their content would be secure from piracy on MCE PCs.

The weakest link narrows down to the user’s ability to transcode on demand media on the PC into something more portable, or the user’s ability to digitally rip the signal off the DVI interface! With Intel’s HDCP tied into the HDMI specification so tightly, manufacturers and content providers would be insane not to push HDMI out the door to replace DVI. The additional perks for HDMI are still there: it’s a smaller cable, can run longer distances without issues, and obviously, the integrated ability to transfer audio too. However, when a tier 1 OEM decides to build their next HTPC, they will certainly come under considerable scrutiny to provide a secure platform if they expect backing from the content providers. The fact that HDMI protects video and audio signaling is enough for content providers to lean on PC manufacturers to adopt the standard over DVI.

Audio poses a fairly large problem for PC manufacturers. While it’s easy for an IGP motherboard to include audio and video on the same interface, graphics cards are only designed for video. At first, graphics cards and motherboards that adopt HDMI will probably opt out of utilizing audio over HDMI as most HDMI-ready devices allow analog stereo input (just as DVI does). However, if we think more long term, fusing audio and video on the same output puts ATI and NVIDIA at particular odds with discreet and integrated audio partners. After all, Intel just released their 8 channel digital audio solution, and companies like Creative and VIA have a significant portion of their business riding on the fact that separate inputs are needed for audio and video. Will we see a synergy from graphics and audio manufacturers to consolidate audio and video back down onto the graphics card? Unfortunately, the PC industry doesn’t have an answer for that question just yet.

Where does this leave DVI? For the PC industry, DVI is just getting its feet off the ground in terms of replacing the ancient 15-pin D-sub analog cables that we have all been using on CRT monitors. There isn’t an advantage for the everyday home user to need an HDCP compliant HDMI LCD panel connected to their computer, although with the backing of a player like Microsoft, it won’t be very long before HDMI starts showing up anyway. For the home theater industry, HDMI is already here and quickly gaining a lot of momentum. DVI won’t disappear overnight in the living room, but you can surely bet that the content providers would love to remove its weakest link in digital copy protection in the near future. Not surprisingly, FCC just mandated that all digital cable ready TVs sold after July 2005 must have DVI-HDCP or HDMI-HDCP capability.

All in all, be aware of the new standard, but don’t be too surprised if HDMI starts showing up on next generation IGP motherboards and then, finally, video cards with audio capabilities. HDMI-to-DVI converters will continue to support older TVs and monitors that don’t have HDMI capability if that monitor is HDCP compatible. The smaller form factor is a welcomed addition for laptops and set top HTPCs, and if audio integration takes off, it will be a welcome fix to the clutter behind the computer. If the PC market shows the same momentum for HDMI that the home theater market has, it certainly won’t be too long until we get these questions answered first hand!



View All Comments

  • kamleshrao - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link


    Your article ("> was written few years back. Considering the fast growing technology, can you please provide a New Article on current HDMI support on Desktop PC's?

  • Digital Prophet - Monday, January 24, 2005 - link

    First of all to those that can't see the advantages of putting audio and video on one cable here it is.
    If its all in one it has to be sent to an A/V receiver that decodes the audio plays it on your speakers and forwards the video to your display.

    Hdmi however is a big joke since firewire can carry a lot more audio and has been around for a while, if the video was sent compressed firewire would also be good for that.

    DVI Dual link has a bandwith of 9.9 gbps , hdmi is a step backwards for video and a step backwards for audio since firewire carries an order of magnitude more channels.,1558,1154746...
  • Bugblatter - Saturday, January 22, 2005 - link

    Those guys want us to buy the CD/DVD AND the DRM-protected download. They can go stuff themselves.

    If I buy a CD I WILL be ble to play it on my PDA. Likewise if I buy a DVD, I WILL rip it to DivX and play it on my PDA.

    They have no moral right to try to stop me. They may have the legal right, but we can always get around that.

    When they start building this crap into the hardware it's up to all of us to make sure that people know about it and don't buy it. If everyone buys the no-name brand that doesn't have the protection then the big players will soon come round.
  • bersl2 - Saturday, January 22, 2005 - link

    #50: That's not the point. Jon Johansen should have never been arrested. Nobody should have to go through what he did.

    And no, most copy protection is not broken purely for the satisfaction of it. Protection is broken both because someone wants to distribute it, and for interoperability purposes (it's my licensed copy; I'll do with it what I ought to be entitled to do).

    Go look up the term "fair use." Now, you go think about what chilling effects DRM will have on it.
  • mosquiton - Friday, January 21, 2005 - link

    I don't want an integrated sound processor on my video card. I want an standard for internal passthrough. Standardizing on internal Optical or Coax links should suffice. a short, 3 inch cable should be all that is necessary. No, I just don't want it. Also, what will you do with onboard audio?
    Nope, I want an internal port on the video card. Fine,the video card will have to pass the signal on, but I don't want it to make the signal itself.
  • Zar0n - Thursday, January 20, 2005 - link

    More copy protection crap!
    Don’t be fool all they what is control your data.
    I what to move my data freely to all my devices with no interference from more DRM
    I use Analog connection, and I'm not going to change anytime soon, it is still the best with CRT monitors.
    But I guess u can connect HDMI up your….
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    #49- cracking encryption won't be illegal everywhere. Besides, unless they are intending to profit from the crack by selling software which uses it, they don't need to tell the MPAA, RIAA, and other evil entities who it was that broke the protection. Remaining very low profile if there is a risk of legal action makes sense.

    Most crackers break protection purely for the challenge and satisfaction of doing so, I'm sure whoever breakes HDCP will be intelligent enough to decide if it's worth taking the risk of releasing it like how the guy who broke CSS did.
  • bersl2 - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    #46: Correct.

    However, what happens if/when cracking said encryption becomes criminal?---and don't say it can't happen, because you (should) know very well what the lobbyists have already been able to accomplish...
  • bhtooefr - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    I will never use HDMI, even when all of the VGA, S-Video, and DVI connections are outlawed.

    I like the connector of HDMI, but I don't like the DRM. Anyone want to bet that there'll soon be a proprietary Slim-DVI connector?
  • ShadowVlican - Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - link

    Thanks for clearing it up KristopherKubicki... i feel better now! except for the DRM stuff... heh Reply

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