OK, I admit it. As fond as I am of high-quality video images, I spend too much time watching those hilarious video clips from YouTube. Just like potato chips, one leads to another. The media and broadcast industries are rightfully abuzz these days how Internet offerings that include Joost, Hulu and the major TV networks will change the way we watch TV. Set-top media adapters like AppleTV and others have brought these offerings, on a site-by-site basis, to the big screen in the living room. That’s great, but the horrible truth is that they look terrible, compared to other fare from broadcast or DVD.
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There’s a good reason for it, too. These Internet videos are heavily compressed in order to get them without delay over your DSL or cable modem. It’s likely to stay that way until the majority of us get broadband data access in the tens of Mbps and these Internet sites upgrade their servers for higher bandwidth streaming, not to mention finding a successful way to pay for it.
What’s an Internet TV junkie to do? Well, help is on the way. Intel (Santa Clara, CA; www.intel.com) just announced on Monday a new family of microprocessor chips that intends to improve the quality of online video displayed on high definition screens. Music to my…eyes.
Sean Maloney, Intel’s chief sales and marketing officer, said the chips’ increased computing power would begin the transformation of herky-jerky video posted on YouTube and other streaming video sites into high-resolution, full-screen quality that could compete with HDTV, The New York Times reported.
The new family of 16 processors, codenamed Penryn, first would be used in servers and high-end desktops that compress video, Maloney said. The chips are based on a new 45nm manufacturing process that makes them about half the size of those made with conventional 90nm and newer 65nm design rules. The smaller size helps increase computing performance with higher clock rates, while reducing power consumption.
Currently, online video uses compression technology to allow clips to be viewed on PCs. Intel says the new chips can create significantly higher quality video, with a set of 46 instructions called SSE4 hardwired into the microprocessors to provide faster and more effective video compression. No information was given on which compression algorithms are used. But they would have to utilize standard codec methodology, such as MPEG-2 and the newer H.264, to ensure compatibility with the millions of devices that decode video today.
The first products based on the new manufacturing technology will be Intel Core 2 and Xeon microprocessors, the company said. Chips for notebook computers, such as the Intel Core 2 Extreme and Intel Core 2 Duo, are scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2008.
Intel said the new video encoding technology will hasten the debut of high-definition video on the Internet. That would be a revolution, indeed! Instead of small, blurry, distorted and jerky streamed video currently offered by most sites, we will be able to enjoy the regular use of full screen, high definition content.
Those who have taken the pains to integrate video from the Internet video on their HDTVs have discovered the dirty little secret of just how bad it looks. Thanks to Intel, it seems, help is on the way. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when on my living room TV, Internet streams from Hulu don’t look like dudu.