Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wireless video on parade

Do you hear that sound? Everybody and his mother is coming to CES claiming they have the answer to sending high def video around the digital living room over wireless. Fact is, everybody wishes they had such a solution, and maybe someday a couple people will.

The latest news is the WirelessHD group has announced its 1.0 spec will be available this year. Don’t expect chip sets and compliance tests to come until at least midyear, making Xmas 2008 products a tight squeeze—if this technology succeeds.

WirelessHD requires a device discovery and control scheme separate from the widely used UPnP spec, which is not a good thing. And the initial chips will not be low power enough to get into battery operated devices such as digital cameras.

Startup Kleer will be demoing at CES its low power technology, a Bluetooth variant, but is not up to the high bandwidth, QoS and copy protection capabilities of WirelessHD. Belkin will demo at CES startup Amimon’s proprietary spin on Wi-Fi which falls somewhere in the middle of the two options. And of course there will be a mighty river of ultrawideband variants on hand.

At the end of the day, the whole idea of wireless video is still an unproven nice-to-have. Whether it will have sufficiently high quality and ease of use combined with low price to make it into tomorrow’s digital video systems remains to be seen.

The answer will be revealed not in cooked CES demos of wireless video. I saw them last year on UWB. What the technology needs is lots of proven silicon from multiple sources that hit the key metrics OEMs want.

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