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July 2005

This month's report looks at the Grokster decision, TEAHA, the Difficulties of HD On Demand, and Chips.

Grokster

The case of MGM v. Grokster was decided on 2005-06-27 by the United States Supreme Court. The case involved two peer-to-peer networking companies, Grokster and Streamcast. They operated advertising supported P2P (peer-to-peer) communications systems that were used to trade music and in so doing, infringe copyrights. The companies did not participate in the infringments. Unlike Napster, they did not maintain libraries of music or directly participate in the copying. However, they did promote their services as a means of obtaining free music. RIAA and MPAA and others sued Grokster and Streamcast, claiming that Grokster and Streamcast induced their users to violate copyrights. In trial, and in later appeal, it was found that the Grokster and Streamcast systems were capable of significant non-infringing uses (as defined in the Betamax case), and so they were found not guilty.

RIAA and MPAA were not happy with this, so they took the case to the Supreme Court. In their appeal they directly challenged the Betamax decision. The Consumer Electronics industry was worried that if the Betamax precedent was weakened, then CE could become legally vulnerable to an endless series of legal attacks.

The Supreme Court decided the case rather narrowly. The justices felt that Grokster and Streamcast were behaving badly and that RIAA and MPAA should be allowed to take legal action against them. However, they left Betamax in place. In balance, it is a reasonable decision.

The Supreme Court said that the lower courts had misread the Betamax decision. They then applied inducement principles from patent law to copyright, but applied clear limits.

So, MPAA wins another chance to sue Grokster and Streamcast, and this time they will probably win. They also establish a strong legal precedent on inducement of copyright infringement.

CE won a reaffirmation of Betamax. Only manufacturers who produce products that are specifically intended to induce people to infringe will be denied Betamax's protection.

But ultimately, it is the lawyers who win. Intent can be a difficult thing to determine in future cases, and the Supreme Court did not draw a clear line between what is legal and what is illegal. All they did was determine that some obviously bad behavior was illegal. I expect that soon we will see a new class of bad behavior that is specifically designed to be protected by the Grokster decision. I also expect to see MPAA and others take action against reasonable products, fortified by the Grokster decision.

TEAHA

TEAHA (The European Application Home Alliance) is a consortium of European companies, including Ikerlan, Trialog, WRAP, Telefonica I+D, EDF, Philips Applied Technology, Fagor. (Most of these companies are not well know outside of Europe.) They are developing systems for networked home control applications, consumer electronics and multimedia applications. Their objective is to work with the A/V world to specify an open, secure, interoperable and seamless global home platform. It will support both RF and powerline communication.

The work is based on TAHI (The Application Home Initiative). TAHI's website has not been updated since 2004. It uses many of the usual standards, including MHP, OSGi, HAVi, SOAP, UPnP, and JINI. It also uses the HUCL (Home Uniform Control Language) XML-based middleware layer from Philips, and the CECED (European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers) Appliance Interworking Specification.

I suspect that the project is very late. It began its first 18-month phase in January 2004, supported by the European Commission (Directorate
General Information Society, IST Programme
). That means that they should have just finished the first phase, but there is no indication that milestones were met. No specifications have been published. The second phase (testing) is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2006.

They appear to making many of the same mistakes as DLNA. The cobbling together of a patchwork of protocols has proven to be a bad way to develop an architecture. Both projects were designed to be agreeable and relatively quick to complete. It cannot be determined yet if TEAHA is as inadequate as DLNA, but I am not optimistic. This is a difficult problem. Proprietary solutions are not acceptable, and committee-designed solutions are not workable. Clearly, a third approach is needed.

TEAHA holds its annual meeting at the Net-AtHome conference in November in Nice.

Format War

The Format War between Sony and Toshiba over the HD disk format continues, despite the fact that everyone agrees that the format war is bad for everyone. Toshiba's HD-DVD is due to come out this year. Experts will tell consumers to avoid it until the format war is finished. Consumers will listen: They remember VHS v. Betamax too.

One interesting development: Toshiba has invested in Optware, the developer of a third format, the HVD holographic disk. HVD has the best specifications of the three systems, but is also the farthest from market. If the format war is prolonged, then HVD might win.

HD On Demand

The Cable Industry is attempting to improve its image as a leading technology, but it is seen as a trailing technology because movies appear on cable long after they have appeared on DVD. The one exception to this is in HD programming. HD and HD On Demand technology is available now on some cable systems. There is no HD disc product yet, and if the BluRay/HD-DVD format war continues, there might not be any for some time. So Cable is first to market with HDTV, but is facing two big problems.

The first problem is an old one: Despite the big demand for big screen TV sets, there still isn't much demand for HD programming. This is because most consumers still do not understand that HDTV is a new television system. This confusion is due in part because the new sets can also show SDTV and EDTV programs.

The second problem is the lack of cooperation from the Studios which are reluctant to make HD programs available to cable. I think there are three reasons for this:

1) There is an expense to HD marketing. This can include transfer and mastering costs, as well as rights negotiation. The studios want to postpone the expenses until the HD market is larger, so that the expenses can be paid back quicker.

2) They are fearful of copying. They want to use the availability of programming to force cable to force consumers to adopt DRM.

3) They want to wait until the new HD DVD business models are understood before committing content to cable. The biggest piece of the profit pie is now DVD. They also want the smaller cable piece, but not if it diminishes the size of the DVD piece.

Without access to movies, there isn't much HD content available to the people with HD sets and HD STBs.

Chips

This is a survey of some HDTV chipsets.

SiI 8100 HDMI Video Processor

The Silicon Image SiI 8100™ video processor is a fully integrated system solution for digital televisions and multi-function monitors that work in both home theater and personal computer applications. The SiI 8100 integrates Silicon Image's industry-leading HDMI(tm) interface, a high-definition component video input able to capture up to 140MHz and a standard-definition ITU-R BT.656 video input port.

The SiI 8100 incorporates state-of-the-art 3D motion adaptive video deinterlacing, advanced video scaling and frame rate conversion from 50Hz to 60Hz. The SiI 8100 also features a PIP processor and advanced image processing controls, as well as an integrated microcontroller, built-in SDRAM controller and programmable OSD engine.

BCM7038 Dual High-Definition Digital Video System-on-Chip

The BCM7038 is an advanced dual channel HD video/audio/graphics and personal video recording (PVR) chip that enables manufacturers to economically incorporate high-quality HDTV capability and PVR features into digital televisions, cable set-top boxes, satellite receivers and HD-DVD players. The chip's dual video/audio channels simultaneously support dual televisions, with independent picture-in-picture support on main and secondary. Advanced video and graphics features, such as on-chip 3D Y/C separation circuit multi-frame de-interlacing, and quad video scalars with single pass processing, significantly improve the HD picture quality, by removing unwanted noise and artifacts from the television image. The chip supports common PVR functions such as pausing live programming, recording, and forwarding and reversing through recorded programs, as well as incorporates software drivers to support industry standard PVR platforms, including TiVo® and XTV™.

The BCM7038 incorporates a 300 MHz 64-bit MIPS® CPU, along with floating point processor, which has a very fast path o 400 MHz DDR system memory to support the high-performance needs required by advanced applications. Numerous other cost saving features have been incorporated into the chip, enabling manufacturers to be more competitive in the HD market.

GF9350 Broadcast Quality Dual-Channel Image Processor

The GF9350 is a 10-bit all-in-one single chip dual channel image processor that sets industry standards in offering the most complete package of broadcast quality processing including: de-interlacing, scaling, frame rate conversion functionality, and much more in a simple, cost effective system solution. Flexibility, performance and integration make the GF9350 the optimal solution for mixed video and computer graphics applications.

The GF9350 can be used with standard definition and high definition digital video signals up to 1080p60 and various VESA / IBM compatible graphic display formats up to and including QXGA resolution. Input and output signal formats can be completely generic and device operation is not limited to currently defined standards.

The flexible, software reconfigurable architecture provides a multi-function video processing platform that suits multi-platform designs and provides different quality levels, feature sets and system price points within a single design.

VIA CN400 Advanced Digital Media Chipset for Smart Digital Entertainment Devices

Optimized to deliver a great Hi-Def™ visual experience, the VIA CN400 provides excellent digital media performance across the highly efficient VIA processor platforms for small form factor/low profile digital entertainment systems and notebooks, as well as next generation HDTV-ready media centers. Integrating a rich feature set and advanced power management, the CN400 extends the capabilities of VIA processor platforms across x86 entertainment devices for the home, vehicle and mobile markets.

Integrating the S3 Graphics UniChrome Pro IGP graphics core, the chipset features the Chromotion CE Video Display engine with hardware MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 acceleration. Together with an advanced 2D/3D graphics core, the VIA CN400 offers exceptional playback and streaming of various digital video formats while maintaining ultra low power consumption and exerting minimal load on the processor. The CN400 also features a robust shared memory architecture and support for up to 4GB of DDR400 memory with the acclaimed FastStream64™ memory controller, and a high speed Ultra V-Link interface for a 1GB/s connection to VIA's feature-leading South Bridge options.

Realta

Realta’s architecture includes the industry’s first fully software programmable video array processor capable of performing over 1 trillion operations per second, an Image Fidelity Enhancement Engine and end-to-end true 10-bit image processing. These core technologies combine together to enable the simultaneous processing of dual high-definition image streams.

Each live image window can be independently processed, scaled, sized and positioned anywhere on the display surface. In addition, Realta contains a powerful OSD engine driven by a 250 MHz RISC CPU enabling 2D graphics and real-time animation.

EM8620L Digital Media Processors with MPEG-4.10 (H.264) and VC-1

Advanced Video Processing

CEVA-X1620 DSP Core

CEVA-X1620 architecture is compiler-driven, implementing orthogonal instruction set and operands, load/store architecture, byte addressing and simple memory configuration (no X/Y partitioning).

The Computation and Bit Manipulation Unit is responsible for all DSP computations, and includes four independent functional units: Two 16x16-bit MAC units, 40-bit Shift unit and 40-bit Logical unit.

The Data Address and Arithmetic Unit includes two identical Load/Store Units, responsible for generating all data memory accesses. The Scalar Unit is a 32-bit integer CPU block, supporting arithmetic, shift and bit manipulation operations on 32-bit data types.

The Program Control Unit is responsible for the code flow, including sequential flow, branches, loops and interrupts. The Dispatch Unit analyses instruction packets and dispatches single instructions to the different functional units.