Apple to Add H.264 Hardware Decoding to All Machines?

Illustration for article titled Apple to Add H.264 Hardware Decoding to All Machines?

Bob Cringely of PBS fame has it on good "rumor" authority that Apple's planning to add H.264 hardware support to all of its machines. As in the iMac, the MacBook, the MacBook Pro, the Mac Pro, and even the Mac Mini. Why is this important? Because a $50 hardware chip (that's how much it costs Apple) will be able to handle all iTunes video flawlessly, allowing the CPU(s) to relax and put its feet up, instead of busting its ass rendering Pirates of the Caribbean like it does now.

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The benefit of this is the ability to play video smoother on lower-end hardware (see Apple TV), and the possibility of DVR usage. How's that? Because this same H.264 chip is capable of encoding as well as decoding, which means you may be able to turn any Mac into an H.264 DVR, or "effortlessly" record screencasts without taxing your CPU, which is doing whatever it is you're currently recording.

The Great Apple Video Encoder Attack of 2007 [PBS]

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DISCUSSION

1) This chip can handle 100% of H.264 decoding in real time for up to what resolution? (I think even the 8800GTX, which has *some* ability to decode H.264, still requires about 40% CPU usage on a mid-range Core2Duo to watch BluRay/HD-DVD).

2) When will such a chip be available as an add-in for my computer, either on a graphics card or some other add-in?

3) If the chip costs $50, I certainly hope I'll be able to get it on something like a current $50 graphics card, for a total of $100. I care more about video than about gaming...so I don't like having to pay for gaming abilities just to get good 2D video.