Studios paying attention as software is key to high def video

Intel is courting entertainment content makers with its new processor chip.

Big Blue formally unveiled its second-generation Core processor – code named Sandy Bridge – at CES Wednesday, focusing the spotlight on the chip’s video processing capabilities and security enhancements for studios.

Warner Bros., Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox have partnered with the company thanks to Sandy Bridge’s Intel Insider program – which enables the delivery of high definition content in a secure environment. The technology has given the studios enough of a comfort factor that they will begin releasing HD films to the PC market simultaneously with DVD and Blu-Ray releases.

Best Buy’s Cinema Now technology will be the centerpiece of that streaming. The system will include a sniffing technology to determine if users have a system using Sandy Bridge. If so, the HD version can be streamed. If not, users will be restricted to the SD version, as they are today.

The chip is expected to be a significant contributor to Intel’s bottom line this quarter. CEO Paul Otellini says he expects Sandy Bridge to contribute one-third of Intel’s total 2011 revenue – and over $25 billion to the computer industry at large.

While most end-users don’t know – or care – much about the details of their processors, Intel’s presentation was very consumer focused. Beyond the entertainment benefits of Intel Insider, the company played up a built-in hardware accelerator called Quick Sync, which greatly reduces the time it takes to edit and share video.

A four-minute HD video, the company said, can now be converted for the iPod in 16 seconds – versus the four minutes it takes with current technology.

“[Sandy Bridge is] a revolution from a technology point of view… a cornerstone of the computer revolution,” said Otellini.

The chip is a workhorse, integrating a CPU and high-powered graphics engine onto a single chip – which contains 1.16 billion transistors.

Intel also introduced a new version of its WiDi technology, which will allow content – ranging from personal photos and videos to whatever’s in that PC’s DVD or Blu-Ray drive – to be streamed from the PC to the TV in high definition.

“The customer is changing,” said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC client group. “The major driver for growth is the consumer. Purchasing-wise, they have gone from 29 percent in 2000 to 66 percent today.”

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