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The future of television is being defined by two key technologies: organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens and ultra high definition (Ultra HD or "4K TV") standards. OLED is a display technology that makes colors pop like nothing you've seen before. 4K TVs deliver incredible sharpness and detail by packing in four times as many pixels as there are on the 1080p HDTVs in our living rooms.
Today HDMI 1.4b, the ubiquitous digital display standard, pipes content from a source (DVD player, Apple TV, Xbox, cable box, etc.) to your TV and it does a marvelous job in making your 1080p picture look good. HDMI 1.4b can also transmit a 4K video stream, but at a reduced rate of 24 to 30 frames per second (compared to 60 fps for broadcast 1080p content). The restricted bandwidth doesn't produce the smooth motion experience that consumers now expect.
Here is where HDMI 2.0 comes in. This next evolution of the HDMI specification is expected to support 4K resolutions at 60fps. Perhaps just as importantly, it will also support increased color rendition with 10 or 12 color bits vs. only 8 bits for 4K via HDMI 1.4b. While an increase from 8-bit color to 10- or 12-bit color doesn't seem like a big deal, it is. It will be an increase of billions of colors that the untrained eye can easily see and appreciate. Do you remember what made you switch from a color TV to HDTV - the impact of lifelike images? Get ready for a déjà vu experience when you see the results enabled by HDMI 2.0!
While there will be great consumer benefits enabled by this new standard, there will also be great challenges for SoC developers. The preceding HDMI specification updates were controlled by a small group of founders - Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson, RCA, and Toshiba. Now, HDMI 2.0 is being developed with input from the whole industry. In addition to the original founders, contributing companies include Apple, AMD, Intel, Microsoft, Cadence, Broadcom, ST Microelectronics, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Dolby and nearly all the industry bigwigs in the computer, consumer, and semiconductor industry segments. Altogether, the HDMI Forum now includes over 80 companies.
I would expect the new HDMI 2.0 standard to include the considerations of all the customers that these companies serve. As a result, verifying HDMI 2.0 compatibility across a broad range of devices is likely to be very challenging, and waiting for plug fests to find compatibility issues will sink time-to-market. For that reason, Cadence is delivering HDMI 2.0 verification IP (VIP) to enable pre-silicon verification of SoC interfaces. This VIP will speed the development of critical SoCs underlying Ultra HD TVs and make this new consumer entertainment experience a global reality.
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