Intel replaces VGA with UDI

Written by Wil Harris

March 9, 2006 | 21:10

Tags: #dvi #hdcp #hdmi #vga

Companies: #intel #silicon-image

Intel has come up with something of a confusing pitch for its (otherwise pretty cool) next-generation monitor cable connection.

The chip giant, which also owns half the graphics market thanks to its Extreme integrated graphics, has been sounding off about how VGA is dead, and the PC needs an all digital successor to the ubiquitous connection.

What's wrong with DVI, we ask? Well, there's been no evolution of the standard in, well, forever, and it doesn't really have an industry working group behind it. It's just kind of 'out there', and that isn't ideal, the boys suggest.

What's wrong with the next-generation HD connector, HDMI, we ask? Well, apparently HDMI wasn't designed for the PC, so it's not really the right thing either. Plus, not all PCs want to be carrying audio over the monitor connector, as HDMI does.

Enter Intel's proposed new open standard: UDI, or Unified Display Interface. What is it? Well, it's HDMI without audio. Or, another way, its DVI with a new type of connector and an industry working group.

It's completely compatible with HDMI, meaning that if you have a nice new HDTV, you'll be able to connect up a UDI PC to it. If you had a UDI monitor, you'll get the benefit of a couple of extra driving modes that UDI offers over HDMI. It also supports HDCP for protected content.

The other major benefit that UDI has over DVI is that it is far smaller. You can't really get a DVI port on a thin and light laptop: you can easily fit a UDI connector on the back of it.

So let's break this down. We've got a connector that's basically exactly the same as HDMI, but without the audio. Well, that's just DVI by another name. DVI doesn't have a working group to increase penetration and make it a de facto standard, so we have UDI. But why not just make HDMI the de facto standard for next-generation machines? After all, we're already starting to see announcements of graphics cards with HDMI on?

Well, the real answer, as is so often the case, comes down to money. If you want to put HDMI sockets on your products, you have to pay $15,000 a year licensing fee (small change) but then you also have to pay a royalty fee for every single product that you build (wads and wads). Intel really doesn't want to be paying royalties on every integrated graphics board that it makes. That doesn't make for great financial sense.

So, prepare to see DVI phased out over the next two years, and UDI phased in. HDMI will be the standard for consumer equipment, but you'll see UDI on the PC. Here's to another merrygoround... and here's to finally getting rid of VGA.

Is this the best way to solve the industry's display problems? Let us know your thoughts over in the forums.
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