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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 26, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Faster hookups: Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI 1.4 and USB 3.0

Here’s a quick primer on some of the new interfaces coming to PCs and consumer electronics. It’s from today’s column that drew on the Bluetooth SIG’s “all hands” meeting in Seattle last week.

Bluetooth 4.0

What it does: Enables companies to add Bluetooth wireless technology to “low energy” devices such as watches and health, fitness and environmental sensors. The devices are intended to run for at least a year on a single watch-type battery.

Status: The specification was introduced in December and should be finalized by July. Devices with 4.0 should go on sale by the end of 2010 or in early 2011.

Caveats: Bluetooth 4.0 “low energy” devices will require new hardware. Phones and PCs will be available with dual-mode radios that work with both “classic” Bluetooth and version 4.0. (Here’s a Bluetooth FAQ with more details).

HDMI 1.4

What it does: Sets standards for HDMI cables to support 3D and “4K” ultrahigh-definition video, with 4,096 by 2,160 pixels. Enables some HDMI cables to carry Ethernet network signals as well as audio and video content, for connecting TVs, video players and other A/V gear. Also specifies new mini HDMI plugs for camcorders and automotive use.

Status: HDMI 1.4 emerged last June, but its 3D specification was finalized just last month. TVs, receivers and other products with HDMI 1.4 are now on sale. It should be used by all major brands by the fall. Sony, for instance, is now using HDMI 1.4 in products that it’s calling “3D enabled.”

Caveats: I asked the HDMI licensing group if 1.4 is absolutely necessary for 3D. Sony’s PlayStation 3, for instance, doesn’t have 1.4 but is supposed to support 3D movies.

The response from Steve Venuti, president of HDMI Licensing: “Source devices, such as the PS3 and many set-top boxes, will be able to be firmware upgraded to accommodate the frame compatible 3D formats. So, in effect, these devices will be able to be updated from 1.3 compliant devices to 1.4 compliance with the 3D specification.”

Venuti expects to see HDMI 1.4 appear on PCs and video cards this year.

USB 3.0

What it does: Computer and electronics connector technology that moves data at up to 5 gigabits per second, or 10 times faster than the widely used USB 2.0 technology.

Status: Since January it’s been starting to appear in consumer devices, including external hard drives. By 2012, 45 percent of mobile computers will have USB 3.0, research firm IDC predicts. Meanwhile, more peripheral products are appearing.

Caveats: Getting USB 3.0 incorporated into the core architecture of PCs is taking longer than expected and won’t happen until 2011, according to In-Stat analyst Brian O’Rourke.

Comments | Topics: bluetooth 4.0, Gadgets & products, hdmi 1.4


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