Intel may add hardware acceleration for Google's WebM

The chip maker is waiting to see if WebM gains popularity

Intel is considering hardware-based acceleration for Google's new WebM video file format in its Atom-based TV chips if the format gains popularity, an Intel executive said on Thursday.

Google last week announced the high-definition WebM video file format to deliver high-quality Web video to multiple devices including TV sets and handhelds. WebM files will include video streams compressed with the open-source VP8 video codec, which was acquired by Google when it bought On2 Technologies in February.

"Just like we did with other codecs like MPEG2, H.264 & VC1, if VP8 establishes itself in the Smart TV space, we will add it to our [hardware] decoders," said Wilfred Martis, general manager for retail consumer electronics at Intel's Digital Home Group.

Intel is working with Google to bring Internet video to TV sets through the Google TV platform, which will blend broadcast TV and Internet content into one interface. Google will supply the software, and the service will be available later this year in some Sony high-definition TVs and Blu-ray DVD players, for which Intel will supply the highly optimized Atom CE4100 chip.

Intel declined to comment on how the lack of hardware acceleration in the CE4100 chips will affect the Google TV project. Google owns YouTube, which is one of the largest video sites on the Internet.

Intel's CE4100 TV chips will be able to decode and play back WebM files using software, Martis said. However, hardware acceleration could provide higher-quality video through faster decoding while consuming less power.

Intel has been trying to woo major TV makers and consumer electronics companies to use the Atom CE4100 chip. The chip includes a processor core that can run at clock speeds of up to 1.2GHz and is capable of decoding two 1080p video streams. The chips are in production, and the company has said it has received orders for more than a million.

A number of hardware and software vendors announced support for the WebM file format, but Intel was not on that list. Mozilla, Microsoft and Opera Software were some of the early vendors to jump on board, and chip maker Broadcom said its VideoCore IV smartphone processor would provide hardware acceleration for WebM video files.

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