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Beware Vaporware

Despite the impression you might get from industry trade shows and some publications, let's be honest; wireless signal transmission for AV applications is really not yet ready for prime time. Sure, you can send low-fidelity audio over short distances and avoid having to deal with running and hiding loudspeaker cable. And wireless projection can change slides for a PowerPoint presentation. But sending high definition video or full-fidelity digital audio is not yet mainstream technology, as evidenced by the few manufacturers listed in the month's ?Spec to Spec?.

DESPITE THE IMPRESSION YOU MIGHT get from industry trade shows and some publications, let's be honest; wireless signal transmission for AV applications is really not yet ready for prime time. Sure, you can send low-fidelity audio over short distances and avoid having to deal with running and hiding loudspeaker cable. And wireless projection can change slides for a PowerPoint presentation. But sending high definition video or full-fidelity digital audio is not yet mainstream technology, as evidenced by the few manufacturers listed in the month's “Spec to Spec”.

Tzero's ZeroWire technology for wireless HDMI claims to be a complete solution for connecting any HD source to any display, but so far it's not available from any consumer electronics manufacturers.

Tzero's ZeroWire technology for wireless HDMI claims to be a complete solution for connecting any HD source to any display, but so far it's not available from any consumer electronics manufacturers.

The nascent technology highlights one of the more interesting differences between “consumer” and “professional/commercial” products and markets. Apparently, in consumer marketing, it's acceptable to announce new products/technologies before they are real. Seasoned AV professionals like to call this “vaporware.” At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there was some excitement generated over news from Philips, Amimon, Asus, and Tzero, which all announced wireless HDMI technologies, but to date, the products have not been available (see “What's Next,” page 94). A certain amount of buzz was also generated among both attendees and media over the arrival of wireless AV transmission. But hopefully the buzz wasn't strong enough to cause any AV pros in attendance at CES to build these products into a project proposal or spec — otherwise, they might be in trouble.

Of course there are lots of ways to transmit audio and video signals wirelessly — after all, isn't that what broadcast television is? But in AV projects, where the emphasis is on high quality digital signal transmission in very “narrowcast” applications, the legal issues sometimes overshadow the technological hurdles. For example, digital rights management comes into play whenever the idea of sending high-value, proprietary AV content into the air, ostensibly for anyone with a receiver to capture and use.

And where does the Federal Communications Commission stand on all this? For example, exactly where is the line between government-regulated broadcasting and narrowcasting digital signage within a chain of retail stores?

Clearly, these are issues that have not yet been resolved and further slow the progress of the wireless AV technology many end-customers so desperately want.



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