Cringley says hardware encoding/decoding of video is coming to a Mac near you!

Robert X. Cringely found himself a very interesting rumor:

Now comes the rumor I have heard, that I believe to be a fact, that has simply yet to be confirmed. I have heard that Apple plans to add hardware video decoding to ALL of its new computers beginning fairly soon, certainly this year.

…and it doesn’t just do hardware H.264 decoding, it does hardware H.264 ENCODING, too.

What does this mean? Well, it means that a Mac Mini will be able to play back video like a god (box), and encode it in H.264 with similar performance.

So when you sit down and decide to, say, rip your (legally purchased, fully owned and operated by yourself and none other) DVDs to your iPod or your Mac, you’ll be able to do so in, say, minutes rather than hours.

Already, there’s some USB video encoders out there which use a similar principle, so that when you compress video, it doesn’t tax your CPU at all. Media center type PCs have video encoding cards that do exactly the same thing. So none of this is new technology.

And, from an iTunes point of view, it could certainly save Apple money. They can use much more aggressive (and therefore CPU-taxing) compression on the HD videos they sell through iTunes, confident that downstream Macs have dedicated hardware to play that video back. Additionally, with Apple’s strong presence in video, this gives every Mac user the benefits of a dedicated encoding card (possibly not a great one, but far better than nothing), which will make iMovie much less painful and give Final Cut a similar boost. This does nothing less than allow users to take a video from soup to nuts, in HD resolution, on a MacBook Pro.

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Written on March 9, 2007