There’s also an audio/video decoder segment to the chip, which means that the CE 3100 should be able to process any video or audio codecs, and hopefully will be upgradable as new codecs launch. To demonstrate the power of the decoder engine, Intel showed the CE 3100 decoding two 1080p streams simultaneously, and also managed to manipulate those streams in real time without any dropped frames. The only caveat here is that Intel stated that one stream was MPEG 2 and the other was h.264, which makes me wonder whether the CE 3100 has enough grunt to decode two h.264 streams simultaneously.
There’s a dedicated graphics engine embedded into the chip, which allows for more than just throwing a rudimentary UI onto your TV. It’s the graphics engine that will allow for the eye candy, such as video overlays and floating menus and even though the applications on show are still in their infancy, they looked far better than any other Internet/TV efforts I’ve seen.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, there’s the IA core, which basically makes the CE 3100’s possibilities limitless. With an IA core on board, any software developer that’s already coding for an Intel platform, will be able to develop for a TV sporting a CE 3100 chip. And that is the key to the potential success of this chip, because Intel is far from alone when it comes to embedding advanced silicon into TVs.
Next week I’ll be in Berlin attending IFA and I fully expect to see TVs sporting Cell chips from Toshiba, with the company already hinting at the enhanced picture processing capabilities that Cell can bring to the party. Likewise, while I was attending CEATEC in Tokyo last year, Panasonic launched its UniPhier chip and has already embedded it into multiple Blu-ray devices, resulting in impressive image quality.
But neither Cell or UniPhier have the ubiquitous nature of the CE 3100, with its IA core, which could mean that it’s a far more attractive option for both software and hardware vendors. And that’s borne out by the fact that Intel showed a quote from Hisatsuga Nonaka - Corporate Senior Executive Vice President Toshiba - saying that Toshiba is very excited to be working with Intel. Does that mean that Toshiba will be going with CE 3100 instead of its own Cell chip? That’s something I’ll be asking the company next week.
The future is looking even more positive too. According to Intel 2009 will see the next generation of CE processor, which will incorporate the already impressive Atom architecture. That in itself will open the door to multi-core processors in TVs and set top boxes, and consequently even more complex operations.
If Atom started the embedded revolution, CE 3100 is about to take that revolution to the next level.