updated 10:15 am EDT, Mon August 11, 2008
Mac QuickTime Chip Rumor
Apple's widely discussed mystery product transition will involve dedicated movie processing hardware, according to a claimed tip on the subject sent to Silicon Alley Insider. The rumor would have at least some of Apple's products carry a chipset that would accelerate both decoding and encoding video, offloading much of the work from the main system processor. The source doesn't name which products would receive the update, which if true would appear before the end of September.
The feature isn't believed likely to be used in a traditional sense for Macs, which as a rule are now capable of playing back up to 1080p video at full speed without additional help. However, the reporters speculate that the hardware could be useful for HD video editing by reducing video creation times or else for processing live HD video from the webcams present on iMacs and MacBooks, which are capable of HD-level resolutions already but have to scale down to lower resolutions to accommodate most existing hardware.
Apple has notably limited its 720p iTunes video rentals so far to the Apple TV media hub, which uses a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 7300 chipset to offload most decoding work to the processor. Such minimum performance isn't guaranteed with Intel-based Macs, which in the case of the MacBook and Mac mini still uses slower Intel integrated video.
While potentially cutting into the margins in a way described by Apple during its latest quartely results call, the alleged tip also mirrors a recent rumor spread by PBS' Robert Cringely, who has claimed without citing sources that Apple will use an NTT DoCoMo-derived H.264 video processor that could compress HD video quickly enough to make HD video chat or certain iTunes operations much more efficient. In the claim, the part is said to have been relatively expensive at $50 but would potentially be an Apple-exclusive feature that gives the company an edge in video performance.
Dell has previously attempted a similar strategy for playback alone by using a specialized Broadcom chipset that allowed it to sell an $879 Blu-ray notebook and skip on more expensive dedicated graphics hardware.