At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show today, Intel announced the release of its new series of processors, code-named “Sandy Bridge.” Loaded with features catering to people hungry to play games and watch video, the new processors reflect the fact that consumers are responsible for 66 percent of Intel’s revenue, a reversal from 2000, when enterprise customers provided 71 percent of revenue.
With Sandy Bridge, which is intended to replace its current line of processors, Intel has integrated a high performance graphics processor directly alongside the two-to -four general-purpose processor cores that are found on each chip. Apart from offering HD video capabilities without the need for a separate graphics card or chip set on the PC’s motherboard, locating the graphic processor on the chip has allowed Intel to offer new features. One of these is QuickSync, which allows the system to rapidly transcode between two different video formats, to cater to customers who wish to download a movie on their PC and then later transfer it to a mobile device such as an iPad. Currently, converting videos can be time consuming. The new Intel feature will allow, for example, a 4 minute HD clip to be converted for iPod viewing in 16 seconds.
The ballooning market for on-demand video is also behind another new feature called Intel Insider: Intel has developed this in partnership with a number of Hollywood (and Bollywood) movie studios that have previously been reluctant to offer online HD versions of their movies because of a fear of piracy. It enforces Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the chip hardware, which makes unauthorized playback of the file impossible, rather than simply trying to prevent copying. The technology is believed to be so secure that studios may allow viewers to download movies in advance of their official online release date, preventing playback until the movie is officially released, which would allow viewers to start watching immediately instead of congesting networks by trying to download it at release time. Of course, there have been previous schemes for DRM that have been hailed as unbreakable, so it will be interesting to see what hackers make of this technology in the months to come.