Saturday, March 14, 2009


Although “free market” self-governance may seem to smack of a political issue, its application affecting technology business has had an affect that has been to no one’s advantage. What I am alluding to is a well known example, the old fight for dominance between Sony Beta and VHS and the recent similar competition with Blu-Ray’s win for HD-DVD media dominance. In the Beta/VHS outcome the lower cost but inferior recording technology won and users, as well as VCR business suffered as a result. it is too early to tell if Blu-Ray dominance will be a loss for all sides, consumers and producers alike, but history forgotten has a habit of repeating itself.

A similar but largely unpublicized situation has affected LCD displays for computers. When industry, both computer makers and LCD display manufacturers agreed to a standard DVI interface connection between display and computer, a part of that basic design is one pair of connectors intended to provide Direct Digital Control of the display settings by a computer. This was included physically but never agreed to as a standard by all of the parties involved. The result has been one company has used this DDC capability in a proprietary manner that excludes the use of any software but the manufacturer’s from engaging this DDC connection to adjust and control the display by a computer. And, another has bypassed the DDC physical connection to provide the same kind of direct computer control of the display. Most other display manufacturers either provide little or no DDC support or it is limited to the transmission of Plug-N-Play information from display to computer.

I have frequently urged digital photography users to obtain a colorimeter and software to calibrate and profile their display. The reason I have given is, your computer has no idea what you are seeing on-screen even though the computer generates the signal that results in what is on screen. The basic idea for Direct Digital Control (DDC) of the adjustment factors of a display via the DVI connector by the computer, was initially attractive as a convenience. But it could also do much more, if supported by the operating system so the adjustment and its result were information recorded by the operating system and accessible to applications and utilities like printer drivers. But without any agreed to standards for DDC, and there were none, everyone can do their own thing or nothing, so Apple and Microsoft cannot facilitate and make use of what DDC could provide in establishing a more effective and efficient relationship between a computer and its display.

Color Management and the facilities provided and required to calibrate and profile displays to become a part of workflow management system to provide screen to print matching only involves color information. The adjustment and functioning level of brightness and contrast at which a display is functioning is not included in data recorded in an ICC/ICM display profile. The result has been that many users working with LCD displays that are bright are obtaining “prints too dark”. If DDC were standardized and adjust/calibration included brightness and contrast factors, and that information were recorded to append a display profile, then a display profile could be referenced by an application or printer driver so print density could be adjusted relative to a known source screen image brightness and contrast.

Because digital photography computer/display users are disadvantaged by only having partial control over screen to print matching, there is considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment in printing photographs directly with a computer. And because DDC direct digital control of display adjustment by the computer is not standardized and enabled by operating systems, relatively expensive proprietary workarounds are limited options for just a few. If the industry could and did agree to provide a standard connector between display and computer (DVI) the industry should be required to accommodate a consensus for a standard to facilitate DDC functioning everyone can access and utilize so the cost and inconvenience of proprietary work-arounds are not required or needed.

So it all comes down to the question of, if a standard would benefit all consumers as well as computer makers and operating system software publishers, should the disagreement of one or a few to such a standard be allowed? Does anyone in football, cricket or any international sport get to choose to not abide by standard rules and still be allowed to play? So shouldn’t the same principle be applied to business, especially a technology product like computers and their displays.

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