HDMI: The war of numbers

HDMI, or High Definition Multimedia Interface, is a standard launched in 2002 by a consortium of electronics manufacturers; Sony, Thompson (RCA), Hitachi, Philips, Silicon Image, Matsushita Electric and a Panasonic/National /Quasar group. With such powerful names behind its development the chances of its success were very strong and this proved to be exactly the case.

As HDMI is a standard that requires compliance by all those claiming to support it, it is essential that a governing body closely monitors compliance. This body is called HDMI Licensing and it effectively draws up the rules by which the manufacturers should comply. HDMI authorities had used a progressive numbering system starting from 1.0 in 2002 to indicate the core set of HDMI features in the first release. Then additional features were developed, gathered together and rigorously tested when the next release came out. The numbering system used 1.x to indicate a major release and 1.xx to recognize a series of minor additions to the major latest release.

When HDMI licensing decided to abolish the version numbers and rather concentrate on providing a simple list of new added features, this proposal was met with some incredulity, if not even disbelief from the manufacturers, who reacted by carrying on using the number based system as before. Consumers too were taken aback at the plan to abolish the numbering system. Perhaps in error, but with some justification, they pointed out that size counts and a HDMI 1.4 compliant system is bound to be better than an HDMI 1.3 based system, without needing to go into great lengths explaining what features are included. They would satisfy themselves with the answer “Well, 1.4 has got to be better than 1.3, hasn’t it?” With that response, few could argue to the contrary. Those manufacturers who did comply and stripped the numbering system from their product descriptions felt that they had scored an own goal, as their products were assumed to be HDMI 1.3 or even HDMI 1.2.

HDMI licensing counter-attacked the resistance by pointing to a particular case that they had an issue with. Manufacturers had produced a form of HDMI to Mini DisplayPort cable. Manufacturers of these types of cables were effectively told to stop production or face the consequences of their actions. The logic used was sound in terms of principal if not necessarily practical. However, the case was certainly compelling. HDMI licensing pointed out that the core definition of HDMI compliance is that the cable is completely built to HDMI specifications, from top to toe, or from connector to connector in this case. A cable that has a different technology on part of its length cannot be called an HDMI compliant product and so is prohibited.

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