( - The licensing arm for the HDMI standard governing the wired transfer of high-definition multimedia content between consumer electronics devices said an upgrade to the spec will be ready for industry-wide adoption by the end of next month.

Called HDMI 1.4, the upgrade represents an important milestone because of the additional enhancements to the high-definition content experience that it will bring to PCs and home consumer electronics, HDMI Licensing President Steve Venuti said.

"The 1.4 specification will support some of the most exciting and powerful near-term innovations, such as Ethernet connectivity and 3-D formats," Venuti said. "Additionally, we are going to broaden our solution by providing a smaller connector for portable devices and a connection system specified for automobiles, as we see both more and different devices adopting the HDMI technology."

IP Content at Ethernet Speeds

As the industry's first all-digital interface to deliver digital video, multichannel surround sound and advanced control data over a single cable, HDMI has already proven its worth as a global standard for connecting a variety of high-definition devices. The upgraded HDMI 1.4 spec will push the evolution of the spec one step further by enabling high-speed bidirectional communication between multiple devices at 100Mb/sec Ethernet speeds.

Any HDMI 1.4-enabled device will be able share its Internet connection with other compatible entertainment-system components -- as well as share content between multiple devices -- without requiring the use of an extra Ethernet cable. Even better, HDMI 1.4 will offer support for HD resolutions that are four times greater than the maximum 1080p resolution of today's HDTV sets, which is comparable to what is achieved in many digital theaters.

Other new capabilities that have been added to the HDMI upgrade include the delivery of 3-D video content to compatible home-entertainment systems via dual-content streams at 1080p resolution. Moreover, HDMI 1.4 incorporates "deep color" support for the sYCC601, Adobe RGB, and AdobeYCC601 color specs for digital still cameras, so compatible display devices can more faithfully reproduce the wide array of colors reflected in digital photographs.

Consumer Considerations

The downside for consumers is that the home-entertainment gear they already own won't be able to take advantage of the advanced capabilities offered by the HDMI 1.4 upgrade. However, HDMI Licensing says it will publish the new spec by the end of June, which means the first HDMI 1.4-compatible home-entertainment products should become available before the holiday shopping season.

Though HDMI 1.4 promises to reduce cable clutter, consumers will either have to become educated about the plethora of new HDMI cable options that will soon hit the marketplace or rely on sales representatives to help sort things out. On the other hand, all the new cables are expected to sport labels that clearly define their function.

For example, to take advantage of the new spec's advanced Ethernet channel capabilities, consumers must either purchase a Standard HDMI with Ethernet cable, or a High Speed HDMI with Ethernet cable. Consumers looking to interconnect multiple high-definition devices in mobile vehicles will need to purchase a special automotive HDMI cable.

By contrast, two more cables will offer no support for Ethernet channel connectivity. The standard HDMI cable supports 1080p data rates, whereas the high-speed HDMI cable for deep color and 3-D applications offers support for data rates beyond 1080p.

Visit the HDMI Web Page.