Intel Move in to STB Chips

Intel is preparing a family of consumer electronics processors based on the company’s IA-32 architecture, the design underlying the vast majority of Intel’s desktop, laptop and server processors. The new chips are designed for running digital video and audio content while providing a robust, fast and transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital content between a variety of products including PCs, high-definition televisions, set-top boxes, digital VCRs and DVD players.

The benefit of faster processors that consume less power is that they offer new ways to view high-quality digital pictures and sound. Streaming content from mobile devices is also a major component in the digital transmission proposals that the entertainment industry is reviewing, regarding delivery of video and audio content.

It’s almost certain that the Intel chips will run at slower clock speeds compared to their desktop counterparts, as the processing power of consumer boxes is not as critical as desktop computers, laptops and servers – frankly for the replay of video, photo and audio, you don’t need that much power. The chips will also likely have a slower bus and smaller cache, as this is an easy way to reduce power consumption and costs. Slower processors leads to less power consumption, less heat generated, therefore less need for noisy cooling fans. Silent or near silent machines are vital in the lounge setting.

Set Top Boxes (STB’s) have until now been built to a low price, so they have been pitifully under-powered. This has lead directly to the interactive TV (iTV) applications that they can run frankly not looking that much better than an Atari 2600. New mass-produced powerful chips  are the first step towards changing this.

Intel already produces processors designed for low-power consumption and high performance processing for a wide range of wireless and networking applications and rich services. Based on a new core devised by England-based ARM, the XScale chips are currently used in both smartphones and PDAs, but it’s looking to offer faster processing power with the new IA-32-based parts.

It’s quite clear that Intel is a chip company focused solidly on its core business, regardless of where it takes it. The company is building up support for its new chips among consumer electronics manufacturers by developing reference designs, or blueprints, for various products. The next step will be establish well-known, robust public and symmetric key cryptographic technique that will provide manufacturers with a simple and inexpensive implementation, while allowing protect digital content in transit quickly and easily – something that Hollywood is very keen on, to say the least.