Jun 1, 2010

Intel to hardware accelerate WebM—if it becomes popular

An Intel executive confirmed  that Intel will add hardware acceleration for Google's newly opened VP8/WebM codec to its TV-oriented Atom CE Systems-on-Chips should the new format become widely used. Intel is currently promoting its Atom CE4100 chip to TV companies for use in "Smart TVs" and set-top boxes, bringing Internet connectivity and streaming media to the TV.

One notable partner is Google, with its new Android-based Google TV platform. Google TV set-top boxes from Logitech are expected in the fall, and they will be powered by the Atom CE4100.

The SoC includes hardware-accelerated decoding of a number of video codecs already, along with a GPU, CPU, audio processor, cryptography acceleration, and USB and Ethernet connectivity. Even without hardware acceleration, software decoding will be fast enough, the company says, to enable the effective use of VP8. The benefit of hardware support would be lower power consumption and, potentially, support for decoding multiple streams without over-taxing the CPU.

With a number of embedded processor and GPU vendors already announcing that they will support hardware-accelerated decoding of VP8 video, Intel's pragmatic decision is unsurprising. The CE4100 can decode two streams of H.264, VC-1, or MPEG 2 video, or one stream of MPEG 4 Part 2 (popularized with codecs like DivX and Xvid)—all chosen because of their substantial market penetration. Should VP8 achieve any success, adding support is an obvious move.
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