TI chip feature to help unlock Netflix 1080p videos

Future smartphones and tablets with the Android OS will be able to unlock HD videos with TI's on-chip decryption feature

Texas Instruments on Tuesday said its OMAP chip had been certified to unlock full 1080p movies from Netflix for smartphones and tablets based on Google's Android 2.3 operating system.

TI's on-chip security feature, called M-Shield, will be able to decode 1080p high-definition movie streams originating from Netflix, said Fred Cohen, director of the OMAP user experience team at TI. A security layer unlocks the encoded video, which can then be played back on smartphones and tablets or TV sets connected through an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port.

The purpose of having this technology is to provide end-to-end security for protected video content, Cohen said. Movie studios are making more high-definition 1080p content available and are adamant about protecting those movies, which are considered premium content.

The on-chip feature minimizes the ability to copy content, as it is easy to take control of a rooted Android device, Cohen said. It's easy for users to access memory where the stream is temporarily stored, and then write the movie to another device.

"You have to protect those devices," Cohen said. "We have implemented a firewall."

Intel has implemented a similar end-to-end security feature called Insider on its Sandy Bridge chips for PCs, which started shipping earlier this year. Controversy has dogged the technology, with Intel being accused of trying to gain control over online movies by requiring users to have Sandy Bridge processors. Intel denied that Insider was DRM (digital rights management) technology, saying it was purely a security feature.

TI's security technology is to provide a security layer so devices get access to high-definition movies, Cohen said.

Netflix provides different levels of security certification depending on features such as the video quality and resolution, Cohen said. Netflix did not return a request for comment on whether it was streaming 1080p video content to mobile devices, or whether chip makers required certification to unlock secure 1080p content.

The M-Shield technology is certified to work on devices based on TI's OMAP 4430 chip and running with Google's OS code-named Gingerbread, Cohen said. The technology in the future will be certified to work on upcoming TI OMAP chips and other Android operating systems such as Android 3.1 and its successor, which is code-named Ice Cream Sandwich.

The OMAP 4430 dual-core chip has ARM CPUs and also brings 1080p high-definition video playback to mobile devices.

Cohen declined to name devices available with chips on which 1080p movies from Netflix can be streamed. But many devices based on the chip will become available in the future, he said.

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