Intel targets homes with new processor for TVs

Intel's Atom-based CE4100 media processor will bring home Web content and games

Intel's chips already go into many laptops, but it is now making a play for television sets and cable boxes through a new processor it released on Thursday.

The chip maker announced an integrated chip package code-named Sodaville, which is designed to run Web and video applications on television sets.

The chip package includes a processor based on the Atom architecture, which already goes into devices like netbooks.

Sodaville chips have the processing power and audio-video components necessary to run rich media applications such as 3-D graphics and full 1080p high-definition video, Intel said.

The CE4100 processor can run at clock speeds of up to 1.2GHz and includes a display processor, graphics processor and video display controller. The chip package -- also called a system on chip (SOC) -- is capable of decoding two 1080p video streams.

Intel also said it is working with Adobe to port Adobe Flash Player 10 to the media processor. That will help bring playback of Internet video from sites like YouTube directly to set-top boxes or television sets. Support for Flash Player 10 will be added in the first half of 2010.

The SOC supports video formats like MPEG-4 and video gaming through support for the OpenGL ES 2.0 standard. Intel also has added its own technology to the SOC to accelerate video and audio decoding.

The chip launch ties into Intel's efforts to merge the Internet experience with TV viewing. Intel's booth on the IDF show floor is displaying examples of how devices with its chips could complement TV viewing with information from the Internet.

The idea is for devices like TVs to run "widgets," or mini-applications, that allow TV watchers to talk to friends in real time or buy products advertised on TV from online stores.

MySpace earlier this year showed off the MySpace Widget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The widget complemented TV watching with MySpace's social-networking offerings, such as e-mail and photo viewing.

Using the widgets, TV watchers could exchange e-mail messages or browse photos on MySpace by activating a widget sitting at the bottom of the TV screen. Users didn't have to rely on a Web browser to access MySpace content.

The effort, called TV Widgets, also allows viewers to play video games on demand. It was launched in conjunction with Yahoo at last year's IDF in San Francisco.

Intel is now working with many networking, content and broadband providers to enable TV Widgets services, including Cisco Systems, BBC, CBS, Netflix and CinemaNow.

The CE4100 media processor will enrich the Internet and multimedia application experience on TVs, Intel said.

Company officials weren't immediately available to comment on pricing or availability. The SOC is an upgrade over Intel's existing CE3100 media processor for TVs and set-top boxes, which was launched last year.

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