Opinion: WHDI in mobile handsets in 2012?
10/11/2010 2:23 AM EDT
MAKUHARI, Japan – There is one thing I absolutely love about my job covering the high-tech industry.
Naturally, I’m supposed to remain calm and skeptical of marketing types hyping the newest gadgets (often, new-technologies-struggling-to-find-the-right-home is the case, rather than a new gadget finally finding the right technology to solve consumers’ problems). But I sometimes lose my sangfroid when I meet engineers convinced of their own technologies, committed to their cause, and hopeful of their eventual success.
Really, nothing can beat it. I admire people with eyes uplifted and minds unfettered.
For instance, I tend to get this incredible energy whenever I see Yoav Nissan-Cohen, chairman and CEO of Amimon.
Internally nicknamed the “Energizer Bunny” Nissan-Cohen, who has an infectious smile, really is a bundle of energy. He seems always to have a new trick up his sleeve, and an insatiable urge to surprise. He plots tirelessly for new angles to push his company’s wireless HDTV technology in new use-case scenarios. Amimon is a developer of Wireless High-definition Interface (WHDI) technology running at 5GHz frequency band.
Throughout his career, he hasn’t stopped thinking, hasn’t stopped promoting, and most important, he just keeps on innovating.
Amimon was here last week at CEATEC, Japan’s premiere consumer electronics show to announce the WHDI Stick. The WHDI Stick is a new product design that showcases PC-to-TV products, which Amimon claims CE manufacturers will bring to market in 2011.
The stick, about the size about a large USB thumb drive, has one HDMI male port that goes into an HDMI computer port. The stick also features a USB cable.
On the receiving end of the HDTV, there’s a dongle that connects to the TV’s HDMI port.
These two parts are paired, and work as though they are two ends of an HDMI cable (but without the cable).
The WHDI Stick lets users wirelessly view their netbook PC content on TV, with virtually no latency (less than one millisecond). With this technology, users can play PC games and interactive content on the “big screen,” says Amimon. In addition to all other content, WHDI security and HDCP 2.0 copy protection allow the WHDI Stick to bring Blu-Ray movies and other copy-protected content to the HDTV, the company added.
Amimon’s WHDI stick
Both Hewlett-Packard and ASUS already introduced to the market a pair of dongles for WHDI-based Wireless PC-to-TV streaming. The WHDI Stick, scheduled for 2011 launch by OEMs according to Amimon, will be a big improvement to the current dongle design, as its compact USB-based WHDI stick device can draw power from USB socket on a notebook PC.
Amimon’s quick backroom demo on the new WHDI stick here was impressive.
But with all due respect to Nissan-Cohen, I couldn’t help but ask him the 64-million-dollar question: “Is wireless ‘HD video’ home networking still relevant?”
Think about it.
Many of us already enjoy the Wi-Fi connected home. While most of us may not be able to wirelessly stream genuine HDTV from PC to TV, we can already see what’s up on the Web on our TV (equipped with Ethernet) using a home router. Besides, we all know about the imminence of IPTV, Apple TV, and not to mention Google TV. So, who still wants to wirelessly transmit Web content from a laptop in the den upstairs to a PC down in the living room?
Is wireless HD video home networking still relevant?
In the face of my doubts, Nissan-Cohen, and his most recent hire, Jon Zierk, vice president of marketing (who just joined Amimon), didn’t miss a beat. “It’s perfect for us,” said Zierk. “IPTV is still a walled garden. It only lets you see what it wants you to see.”
Nissan-Cohen followed: “We believe that IPTV will only whet consumers’ appetite for Amimon’s solution. We offer genuine, open Internet accessibility; the ability to access to all the photos, video clips and gaming stored on their PCs; and see e-mail.”
Fair enough. IPTV is still an iffy concept. Now that most everyone has already had the experience of a free, open Internet, why go back to a walled garden?
OK, but I see an even more important question. In my humble opinion, the very definition (or the most obvious advantage) of “being wireless” seems to have already moved on, from replacing cables in home entertainment systems to mobile devices (which are already wireless). If you want to watch YouTube video in the living room where your TV is, you can already do that on your smartphone or media tablet. So why bother?
Nissan-Cohen had an answer: “We [WHDI] will be in the mobile phone.”
He said, “When I sit down on my couch, there are times I want to share video on my iPad with those in the same room. I want to be able to flip my iPad, not staring down on the tablet but just looking at our large screen TV. Wouldn’t that be cool?” While talking, he mimed flipping his virtual iPad, and ended by gazing at his virtual TV.
According to Amimon’s CEO, “You need one standard,” not three or four different technologies, to make wireless a success at home. “For that, you need to make sure that your wireless technology can meet the following three parameters.” He said that it a) needs to be in every type of device – everything from a Blu-ray to a mobile phone, and b) needs to work everywhere and anywhere at home, and c) needs to be usable in any use-case scenarios.
Um, hasn’t the market decided already that the one standard is WiFi?
Well, not exactly. For regular data transmission, WiFi already rules at home. But there is no other wireless technology out there capable of virtually no-latency HD-video transmission. Amimon is still hopeful of sharing WiFi’s radio, adding a small logic (“a trivial gate count,” according to Nissan-Cohen) to WiFi’s MAC, so that Amimon can eventually offer “WHDI in software IP” to mobile handset vendors.
In short, if everything goes according to Amimon’s plan, mobile phone companies can offer “low-cost, low-power, virtually zero-latency, high-range wireless video capability for free,” without adding another wireless MAC/radio chip to their handsets. Further, when WHDI is set in motion in a handset, the handset’s screen goes dark, added Nissan-Cohen.
“It means enormous energy savings.
Well, we can even say that WHDI gives them free energy!”
With all joking aside, Amimon’s Nissan-Cohen is serious. He promised that WHDI in handset in 2012.
I reserve my rights to skepticism. But I also believe if this dream ever happens, it will come true for one reason: Nissan-Cohen’s unlimited energy to believe in the technology his company has developed.
I should also note that wireless “video” home-networking has been a topic of interest for more than a decade to many covering this industry. We’ve followed every vicissitude of UWB. To be fair, the reason I remain skeptical is that we have yet to see any wireless video networking technologies take the world by storm. Much of the press has moved on. (Remember, us journalists are incredibly short-sighted creatures, eager to cover what’s next and what’s hot, rather than “old news” that’s already cool to the touch.)
And yet, every time I see Nissan-Cohen, I find myself, irresistibly, warming up.