Political issues aside, it appears the cable industry will be plugging into the Digital Visual Interface technology for high-definition set-top boxes in the coming year.
DVI outputs — which deliver an uncompressed, unrecordable digital video link to the newest high-definition TV sets — will be added to HD digital set-top boxes from the major U.S. vendors in 2003.
As DVI catches on in Hollywood — and with consumer-electronics manufacturers — Cox Communications Inc. has informed its HD box vendors that the output has been added to its wish list of "must-have" features.
"We definitely want it, and we have included it in our requirements for set-top vendors that they provide it, because we see that there are televisions and other display devices that are coming out with a DVI interface," said Cox vice president of multimedia technology John Hildebrand. "So we want DVI interface and we want with the release of DVI we must have copy protection — the HDCP [high-bandwidth digital copy protection]."
Cox isn't alone. Given demand from other U.S. cable operators, Pace Micro Technologies plc will offer DVI outputs on its HD box, due in February, said Americas division president Neil Gaydon.
"We're having it as a third option on our box," he said. "Six months ago, nobody really knew that was going to happen, whereas it's looking clearer now that Hollywood is going to take a quite a tough line on it."
Similarly, Pioneer Electronics (U.S.A.) Inc. will add DVI to its Voyager 3510 HD and Voyager 4000 HD/digital video recorder boxes, expected in the coming year.
"Any HD-capable box moving forward ? Pioneer is committed to DVI," said Pioneer vice president of software engineering Haig Krakirian.
Scientific-Atlanta Inc. plans to add DVI as an optional port on its next-generation high-definition TV set-top box, now in development.
"We're getting a lot of input from customers as to what they would like on the set-top," said Jim Kiker, director of Explorer set-top development for S-A's products and strategy group. "I think it's safe to say there's a lot of interest in it."
Future shipments of Motorola Inc.'s DCT-5100 HD will also sport DVI. For now, it will be a connection option, but over time it may well become standard, according to senior director of marketing and product management Carl Vassia.
"Right now, we are calling it an option because when we started the 5100 program, I think it was a little bit early for the groundswell that is turning out around DVI," he said. "Ultimately, over time, that may become a standard feature as it gains more momentum. There certainly is a lot of interest from the operator community on the DVI digital interface."
Like the others, Vassia doesn't see DVI working its way onto non-HD boxes.
"We don't see that happening right now," he said. "I think the interest is in the HD area — we haven't ruled it out, but right now our focus is getting it into the HD product and getting it shipped as soon as we can."