Intel Unveils Universal Display Interface

Intel thinks that it's finally time to put that old D-SUB port out of its misery.

It’s hard to believe that the Intel Developer Forum has rolled around again, but here I am, in San Francisco once more, to hear about everything that Intel has up its sleeve for the next few months. Although IDF doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, Intel always gives the Press a bit of a sneak peek the day before.

One of the things that really caught my eye at the pre-IDF briefings was a short presentation on the Universal Display Interface. Simon Ellis (Intel UDI Program Manager), was keen to extol the benefits of UDI as the future of PC display technology.


”’Simon Ellis shows that he’s “down” with UDI.”’


Simon kicked off by telling us that UDI would be the replacement for the archaic analogue D-SUB connector, which seemed strange since I had always imagined that DVI had been the replacement for D-SUB. However, Simon backed up that initial statement; adding that DVI had only managed 30 per cent market penetration – a statistic that I can’t help but question.

Given that I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of monitors and graphics cards that have passed through the TrustedReviews lab in the past couple of years that didn’t have a DVI port, the idea that there is only 30 per cent market penetration is quite difficult to swallow. That said, if that figure is counting all the massive corporate installs, all the basic PCs with integrated graphics chipsets and all the notebooks, I guess the figure could hold some water.

Simon pointed out that UDI is an evolution of HDMI, although unlike HDMI, it won’t be capable of carrying audio, much like DVI in fact. Also like DVI and HDMI, UDI will support HDCP to safeguard the copyright of distributed digital video. Version 0.8 of the UDI specification has already been published, with version 1.0 due in Q2 2006.


”’UDI on the left HDMI on the right – similar in so many ways.”’


What was interesting is that Simon had an actual UDI cable on show. As you can see from the picture, there is an HDMI connector at one end and a UDI connector at the other. Again, much like the DVI to HDMI cables that are commonplace today.

I can’t help but wonder how UDI will benefit the consumer, since it doesn’t seem to be offering much over the already established DVI and HDMI standards. However, it will bring a benefit to manufacturers, who have to pay a hefty licence fee in order to use HDMI – the annual licence fee of $15,000 is augmented by a royalty fee for every device that incorporates the interface.

I’ve never been a fan of new standards when there are perfectly adequate ones already in place, but DVI has been around for a long time now and the analogue D-SUB port still hasn’t shown any signs of disappearing. If UDI can finally put the D-SUB port out to pasture, it has to be a good thing.

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