HDMI 1.4 was just revealed, bringing with it an HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) that enables data transfers of up to 100 Mbps between supported connected devices. Put simply, this could allow a "broadband-connected television using its HEC-enabled HDMI port to provide internet connection sharing with another HEC-enabled device such as a game console or DVR." Furthermore, the spec's Audio Return Channel (ARC) enables broadcast audio to be easily streamed back to an external amplifier, and the Automatic Content Enhancement (ACE) provides support for "future 3D video standards, increased resolution support (up to 4,096 x 2,160 pixels at up to 30Hz), and content recognition that promises to automatically optimize the TV's picture settings based on content type."
The bad news? HEC will only work with new HDMI 1.4 spec cables, and those will be graded into two separate levels of performance: low- and high-data rate. We needn't describe to you what kind of ball Monster Cable is going to have with that one, but even outside of that, we're baffled by the decision to add one more complexity to a cable that should seriously be doing everything in its power to not be overshadowed by DisplayPort. At any rate, we're told that Silicon Image is hoping to ship chip samples to manufacturers in Q2 2009, while HDMI 1.4-enabled products could arrive as early as next year. We aren't holding our breath, but we'll gladly eat crow if need be.