Some things I didnâ¿¿t know about HDTV

From the desk of senior associate editor Samuel K. Moore

In case you hadnâ''t heard (and I admit that I hadnâ''t) there are lots of analog problems with digital TV. Doug Bartow, strategic marketing manager for advanced TV at Analog Devices (ADI), told me so the other day. He ought to know, because ADI is making a killing off of it. What the company calls advanced TVâ''thatâ''s HDTV plus high end digital cameras, game boxes, and other expensive media toysâ''makes up 24 percent of the companyâ''s $2.6 or so billion annual sales.

Anyhow, Bartow dropped me a line to tell me about it, because â''we can see the writing on the wall.â'' The writing, he told me, says big HDTV makers are seeing their marketshare slip so you have to sell to the second tier like Brillian and Westinghouse. But apparently those guys arenâ''t aware of all that ADI can do for HDTVs.

I wonâ''t go in to everything; ADI has a press release for that. But one thing that stuck with me was that sound is a big problem. When the screen is flat, thereâ''s no room for nice-sounding big speakers and their associated amplifiers with their accompanying heat sinks in the box. One solution is to use small, not-so-nice sounding speakers and make up for their deficiencies with some really nice-sounding audio processing and some good class-D amplifiers. You guessed it, ADI makes both. (The processors also help synch the sound to the video, which is tricky in HDTV because all of the image processing involved takes many milliseconds more than the audio processing.)

Weâ''ve made much of wireless in the home, and Bartow told me some interesting things in that area, too. ADIâ''s marketing a technology it calls Wavescale to compress video according to the JPEG2000 algorithm used by Hollywood to for digital distribution of movies to theaters. ADIâ''s contribution is in making a cheap enough chip to put in consumer devices.

Of course once the video is compressed you need to radio it to the TV (or whatever). Bartow says the company is working in ultrawideband, IEEE 802.11n, and, with SiBeam, on 60 GHz. Weâ''ve made much of the 60 GHz bandâ''s capabilities in the pages of Spectrum. In particular, we have been fans of the idea of being able to transmit uncompressed high-def video. SiBeam is one of the leaders of the effort, having gone further than anyone else in making a CMOS (read as cheap) transceiver. But Bartow tells me that SiBeam is coming around to the idea that even the amazing multi-gigahertz data-rates possible in the 60 GHz band are no match for the torrent of data in uncompressed HD video, and that theyâ''ll need some sort of compression, too.

One of our reporters will be checking in with SiBeam about that soon. So stay tuned.

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