Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Can HDMI become a network?

Thanks to a reader of my EE Times blog for pointing out to me some recent slides from presentations created for financial analysts by Silicon Image, the HDMI chip designer. The slides suggest a possible wrinkle in the story I overheard about Silicon Image being in stealth mode with a new concept in home networking.

There is nothing very explicit in the foils. However, a couple slides talk about a Personal Entertainment Network the company aims to get off the ground in 2008. It describes this so-called PEN as "an architecture for securely moving digital media in a home network, [enabling] any device to display to any display in the personal entertainment domain. The Personal Entertainment domain is unique to each household and includes mobile devices."

Hmmm, sounds to me like Silicon Image may be wrapping some new software, and perhaps some additional security features, around its interface chips in hopes of creating a broader service that could tempt OEMs to standardize on their products across a range of devices. The company may even take the notion directly to end users as an extension of its Simplay effort that was initially aimed at making sure HDMI devices worked through interoperability problems.

Clearly Silicon Image is riding the growth curve of TVs and related devices shifting the high def. And they are very vocal about mobile systems of all sorts from digital cameras to cellphones being their next big growth area. But can they carve out a network play from what is essentially a relatively expensive content protection interface loved by Hollywood that some operators and OEMs would rather design around via ultrawideband or 60 GHz radio links? This could be a bridge too far, especially considering the company has gone through some recent management changes. Stay tuned.

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