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Intel CE4100

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Eric Kim kicked off day three of IDF, with an update on Intel's position in the consumer electronics world. The main theme was the future of television, and how to make TV both a personal and social experience. Eric invited his buddy LeVar Burton over to kick back and watch some TV, while Justin Rattner watched the same TV show from his living room - or at least that was the theory.

The idea of the demonstration is that TV can be a social tool even if the people you're socialising with aren't in the same room as you. The usual ideas were rolled out such as media recommendation, media sharing and automated user customisation. Of course all this functionality will require hardware to drive it, and according to Intel, that hardware will be the new CE4100 chip.

Last year Intel announced the CE3100 which was a consumer electronics based SoC with dedicated audio, video and graphics processors, as well as a fully functioning IA core. However, the IA core in the CE3100 was based on the older Pentium M mobile technology, while the latest CE4100 chip has an Atom core.

The introduction of Atom micro-architecture isn't the only improvement either. The video processor has been enhanced, which means that it should now be able to simultaneously decode two h.264 streams. The graphics processor clock speed has also been doubled, which goes some way to explaining why Intel feels that devices based on the CE4100 could facilitate casual gaming.

Capture of uncompressed 1080p video is now also on the menu, although how much use this will be is debatable, since the majority of HD camcorders now record directly in AVCHD, and it's doubtful that any broadcasters will be pumping out uncompressed HD.

The move to an Atom core also brings with it the prospect of enhanced functionality through the Atom Developer Program. With developers actively creating apps for Atom based devices, a TV or set top box powered by the CE4100 could have an ever increasing feature list.

Intel is already punting out reference platform boxes for manufacturers to develop for the new chip, although these early versions are still powered by the CE3100. That said, the CE4100 has full backward compatibility with the previous chip.

When we'll see actual products based on the CE4100 is hard to say, since we haven't actually seen anything based on the CE3100. Toshiba has shown off its Net Player, which uses the CE3100, but perhaps the company will now hold fire and launch it with the CE4100 instead.

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