At IDF back in August, Intel announced its Media Processor CE 3100 (Canmore) chip, and for me it was one of the most exciting announcement of the whole conference. At its basic level Canmore is an embedded SoC (System on a Chip), that's aimed at the AV market. Inside Canmore you'll find dedicated Audio/Video decoders, a graphics processing engine, an image processor and a full IA core. The latter basically means that any software developer that's already coding for an Intel platform, will have no problem developing for a Canmore equipped consumer electronics device.
When Intel announced Canmore, a slide was shown with a quote from Toshiba, saying that the company was looking forward to working with Intel and taking advantage of this new technology. However, when I spoke to Toshiba at IFA, the impending use of Intel's chip was denied, and I was told that Cell was the only new processor being lined up for use in its TVs.
It came as something of a surprise then (admittedly a welcome one) when Toshiba today announced that it would be producing a range of TVs with advanced networking capabilities, and would be working with both Intel and Yahoo. Intel's chip wasn't specifically mentioned, but considering that the Yahoo Widgets environment was designed to run on Canmore, I have to assume that Toshiba will be making use of the chip.
Toshiba was making a pretty big noise about network connectivity, and obviously Intel's new baby makes the ideal partner. I think that the Yahoo Widgets platform looks like the best implementation of the Internet in the living room so far. Ultimately I don't want to be balancing a keyboard and mouse on my lap while I sit on the sofa, but I would like access to some online content without having to use my computer.
As well as the Yahoo Widget support, Toshiba was keen to point out that its new network enabled TVs will also be able to make good use of any Microsoft Media Center PCs in the house, and stream content direct from them. To be honest, Toshiba was selling itself a bit short, since Canmore should be able to do a great deal more than that, but I can understand the company's caution to go into too much detail.
Toshiba also confirmed that it would be producing stand alone network devices as well as integrating this technology into its TVs. This will essentially allow Toshiba's existing TV customers (as well as those of other manufacturers) to take advantage of some of these new features, although the image processing portion of the Canmore chip won't be utilised to the same extent as when it's installed in a TV.
There was no definite date as to when these new network-centric products will be launched, but the fact that Toshiba has come out and confirmed its intention to work with both Intel and Yahoo is very promising. Rest assured that I'll be badgering both Toshiba and Intel as soon as I return to the UK in an effort to get my hands on a sample.