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New HDMI standard brings Internet to TV

HDMI Licensing announces features that will be incorporated in the upcoming HDMI 1.4 specification, including networking capabilities.

Awhile ago I said all HDMI cables are basically created equal, regardless of price. That's about to change.

HDMI Licensing, the body responsible for licensing the High-Definition Multimedia Interface specification (widely known as HDMI) announced Wednesday the features that will be incorporated in the upcoming HDMI 1.4 specification.

A regular HDMI cable. Dong Ngo/CNET

Among other advancements, the latest HDMI specification will offer networking capabilities with Ethernet connectivity and will add an Audio Return Channel to enable upstream audio connections via the HDMI cable.

According to HDMI Licensing, the detailed HDMI specification 1.4 will be available for download on its Web site no later than June 30. For now, you can read more about the new version here.

Personally, I'm most interested in the networking capability, which is said to cap at 100Mbps; not as fast as Gigabit Ethernet but still plenty fast for virtually any IP application.

It's safe to say that in the very near future, you'll be able to conveniently surf the Internet, as well as check e-mail and instant messaging with your TV. It also means your entertainment corner will be less cluttered, as this spares you from the need for a separate Ethernet cable, currently a must if you have a setup that allows for Internet access from your TV.

There's a downside, however: the new standard will require a new HDMI cable. Existing HDMI cables, including the Monster Cables that you paid hundreds of dollars for, will not be compatible with the new standard as they are designed to deliver sound and graphics only.

Even if the existing cable could handle the new standard, in many cases you will still need to get a new cable as HDMI 1.4 also comes with a new connector called Micro HDMI, which is about 50 percent smaller than the current connector. This new connector will be used in portable devices and support resolution up to 1080p.

New devices that support HDMI 1.4 are expected to be available by the end of the year.