updated 04:30 pm EST, Fri March 9, 2007
Mac Built-in Decode HW
Apple is preparing to outfit its Macs with hardware that would accelerate decoding and encoding video, according to Robert Cringely of PBS. The columnist claims that every Mac to be released in 2007 will at some point include a chipset that offloads the tasks of rendering videos from the CPU, guaranteeing a minimum level of quality across every system.
Imporantly, Cringely adds, the hardware will be used to let Macs double as PVRs, converting live TV into H.264 videos to be shared across other devices. The hardware could also be used to improve the quality of video chats and for streaming home TV over the Internet as with the Slingbox. These tasks could even be handled in the background without the user even noticing.
Although unconfirmed, the move is said to be "fact" and will cost Apple a significant amount of money in the short term, according to Cringely. The Cupertino business will need to spend roughly $50 per system to make the update and is preparing itself for reduced sales of its higher-end models. Such a change could cost Apple $500 million or more and is ultimately considered a gamble on the popularity of video by the company, the author says.
Hardware video decoding has existed for awhile in some of Apple's products, but has usually involved only the use of 3D hardware to drive the Quartz Extreme visual layer in Mac OS X. The most advanced dedicated media processing is handled by Apple's portable media players, with the fifth-generation iPod sporting a video decoding chip for movies. The Apple TV uses a GeForce Go 7400 to take most of the video processing burden away from the media hub's 1GHz Intel processor.