Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another botch job? DisplayPort vs UDI

Give an engineer a problem to solve and they will solve it. Give a group of engineers a problem to solve and they will define the problem so narrowly that they end up solving the wrong problem.

It is bad enough that we have two competing next generation monitor interface standards, DisplayPort and UDI. Unfortunately neither solves the user's real problem which is not how to connect their display to their computer its how to connect the stuff on their desktop to their computer.

At least we can now use one cable to connect audio and video at the same time. Most monitors have built in speakers. Unfortunately the UDI spec only supports this by falling back to HDMI when a TV is detected. DisplayPort has native support for audio and video.

What both specs lack is the ability to send keyboard, mouse, USB or power. A wireless keyboard/mouse is not a substitute, the signal does not carry far enough.

So this spec is not going to provide a laptop doc replacement. Which is probably part of the point. If the connection is made too good it might threaten the bogus market for docking stations, power adaptors and all the rest of the overpriced proprietary peripherals that are effectively mandatory for laptop users.

Both specs re-use the DVI/HDMI connector so expect plenty of confusion if both make it to market. The chance that this is going to be a net benefit is not at all good.

Geeks want bigger displays. Consumers want to get rid of cable clutter. So guess who wins?

Don't expect the standards groups to solve the consumer's problem soon. In the meantime the best we can hope for is that the manufacturers of overpriced cables might partly solve the problem by selling DVI/USB combination cables. If we are really lucky someone might manage to get a standard layout for the ports at the display or computer end.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Good article. I completely agree that DisplayPort and UDI aren't actually solving any truly useful problems!

One solution that you might be interested in is USB 2.0 connected monitors. The company I work for (DisplayLink) has a lossless compression technology to make 1600x1200x24-bit over USB 2.0 a surprisingly good-performing connection method, even for full-screen video. We currently have several companies who are interested in our technology, as it means that the only connection to the PC is a USB 2.0 cable.

It doesn't solve your desire to have power over the same connector of course, but that wouldn't work on a notebook anyway. It definitely eliminates cable clutter though, especially when you're hooking up a notebook PC and keep your keyboard and mouse plugged into the USB hub on the monitor.

The only product that has been announced so far is a USB dock by Kensington based on our previous generation, but there are others in the works. We're also talking to monitor manufacturers about putting our chips directly into the monitor (which isn't much of a stretch as they usually have USB inputs anyway).

Sorry for the plug for my company, but I couldn't resist. :)