Intel Considers Google’s WebM For Hardware Acceleration

May 31 2010 Categorized Under: Entertainment, Misc Tags; , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 4 Commented

Intel is looking into Google’s newly released WebM format and considering adding hardware acceleration for the format on its specialized Atom chip. WebM is a new video format released by Google, which is based on the VP8 codec. Intel is one of the partners who are working with Google to bring about the Google TV platform to the world and the WebM format is meant especially for that platform.

Intel is thinking about adding hardware acceleration for Google’s WebM high definition video format on to its Atom CE4100 chip. Google released the WebM format in order to use it on the newly unveiled Android-based Google TV format. WebM is based on the VP8 codec, which was gained by Google earlier this year when they bought On2 Technologies. The VP8 codec ties is perfectly with Google’s work principles because it is an open codec and is not locked into proprietary ownersip like the commonly used h.264.

Google’s aim for the WebM standard is to make it a common standard for the web and use it to stream video between various platforms. But for now, it is going to be used on the Google TV platform. This platform has been devised to bring the new-age internet media to co-exist with the the traditional broadcast media that exists on our televisions already. Google’s plan for this is to make both broadcast media and internet media to blend into a smooth experience through a well-designed interface and integrated system.

Google has been collaborating with Intel to make the chips that are required for the Google TV platform to function. Intel has hence developed a highly specialized Atom chip called the CE4100. It is perfectly suited for the job and is being used by Sony, Google’s other partner, to make TV’s and Blu-Ray players that will have Google TV onboard. There have also been talks of Google TV appearing on set-top boxes.

Even though Intel is a partner and has a made a chip especially for Google TV, they are not yet ready to add hardware acceleration for WebM on the Atom CE4100. They want to do it, as it seems from their words but they are waiting for WebM to take a hold on the platform (and probably other places). Bottom line, they do not want to go supporting something that might turn out to be vaporware.

However, for Google this is one more strategic move to strengthen their Google TV platform. Since this platform is Android-based, it inherits the almost openness of the OS and also features like the Marketplace. Users can not only access existing apps on their Google TV, developers can now make special apps for the Google TV platform. With this open codec-based format in place, Google might at least be able to avert a total lock down on online video by one company.

H.264, which is the most common video format on the web at the moment, is a proprietary codec that is controlled by a patent investment group and can be used to extract exorbitant revenues from the Internet services and users who are dependent on H.264 codec. Google’s WebM is one of the handful of open standards that are currently being pushed for becoming the de facto standard of online streaming.

So in the midst of all this confusion, Intel is playing the wait-and-watch game to figure out whether it would be worth the trouble to add hardware acceleration for WebM. Google TV systems based on the Atom CE4100 chips will be able to decode WebM though — it will just use software acceleration to deliver the video playback. There’s however some doubt about the level of performance that can be expected from such a set up.

Intel has been pushing the Atom Ce4100 chip to TV manufacturers for creating smart TVs. The chip boasts of being able to attain a stable clock speed of 1.2GHz and decode and playback two simultaneous high definition video feeds. Its main advantage is the ability to deliver high quality video through faster decoding and manage to consume less power.

But Intel is not the only interested in WebM and some major hardware and software vendors have already started declaring their support for WebM. Software vendors Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera have already announced that they will support Google’s WebM initiative. Chip-maker Broadcom has declared that their VideoCore IV chip will have hardware acceleration in place for WebM. This chip from Broadcom is used in smartphones.

ARM has also mentioned in the meantime that they are planning to support Google TV. They said that along with the support for Google’s Chrome browser and Adobe’s Flash, they are also working on supporting Google TV. That might also include support for WebM.

Since Google owns the world’s largest video site — YouTube — they are in quite a good position to leverage the WebM format through their own means if necessary. But if vendors continue to push for Google TV, its creators might not need to do much on their own except for developing it further.

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4 Responses to “Intel Considers Google’s WebM For Hardware Acceleration”

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