Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable hosted "Advanced Advertising" on Dec. 10 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. (Photos by Mark Reinertson)
CES 2012: The Connector Cacophony
LAS VEGAS - A less-glitzy but persistent thread at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show? Connectors. HDMI, USB, Ethernet, you name it. Yes, even in these wireless times, connectors still matter.
As someone who spent chunks of 2011 figuring out how to wire up a pile of over-the-top gadgetry, I can attest: When everything needs an Internet connection, one starts to think more about signals and connectors.
At this year’s CES, a new batch appeared: DIIVA (Digital Interactive Interface for Video & Audio) and MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link).
Technically, MHL, as a specification, isn’t new-new. It turns two this year. It’s backed by a consortium of companies including Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony and Toshiba. The 1.0 version of the MHL spec includes 1080p video resolution, 7.1-channel surround sound and 5 watts of power, over a five-pin connector.
Its original intent: To connect your smart phone to your TV. (Which explains the “mobile” part of MHL.) Use the micro-USB connector on your phone to get to the HDMI connector on your HDTV. Play the stuff on your phone on your TV, using the TV’s remote, and without draining the battery of your phone.
Roku put MHL in the spotlight with a very different use case last week: the “Streaming Stick.” Picture something slightly wider than a thumb drive, which streams over-the-top video. Yes, you need an HD screen equipped with the MHL connector to play.
If this seems counterintuitive to the entire notion of the “smart TV,” think about what 2011-model smart TVs will look like, from an obsolescence perspective, in 2016. A $50-ish stick on a “dumb” monitor is probably more economic than replacing the TV.
MHL availability: now, on lots of phones, tablets and TVs.
Then there’s DIIVA: Another CE consortium, with players like LG, Samsung, and Sony. They’re out with a combo-cable that does HDMI (video), Ethernet (data/Internet) and USB (connectivity and control). It hauls up to 18 Gigabits per second of data, over a distance over about 25 meters. Availability: midyear.
This kind of cable will stoke the home theater community, so watch for more DIIVA developments around their big show, called CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association).
Last but not least: a way to turn the coax jack on your wall into a combo Ethernet/Wi-Fi outlet. Manufacturer Wi3 branded it “WiPNET,” with handouts proclaiming the death of the set-top box: “2012 will write the eulogy for the set-top box, and WiPNET, as they say, will be the final nail.” (As who says?)
The Wi3 sleeves retail for just under $200. Installation looked … non-trivial, as engineers like to say.
CES is always a preview show, often proving the adage about the lack of a difference between “early” and “wrong.” In this case, the timing seems about right.
All of this connectorization will matter more as we head toward six or more IP-connected things in our lives, wanting sips and gulps of broadband - wired or wireless. That should happen within the next year or two.
Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translationplease.com or multichannel.com/blog.