RUMOR: Apple soon to add hardware H.264 video decoding/encoding to all Macs

Apple Store“Maybe you have wondered, as I have, why it takes a pretty robust notebook computer to play DVD videos, while Wal-Mart will sell you a perfectly capable progressive-scan DVD player from Philips for $38? In general, the dedicated DVD player is not only a lot cheaper, it works better, too, and the simple reason is because it decodes the DVD’s MPEG-2 video stream in hardware, rather than in software. They won’t run a spreadsheet, true, but DVD players are brilliant at doing what they are designed to do over and over again. And if the expedient here is a $7 MPEG-2 decoder chip, it’s a wonder why such chips didn’t appear long ago in PCs,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

Cringely writes, “Well they are about to, after a fashion.”

“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 [H.264] to ALL of its new computers beginning fairly soon, certainly this year,” Cringely writes.

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Judge Bork” for the heads up.]


  1. Well, I for one am in favor of the custom chip(s). It makes your product unique (try running a hacked OSX on a Dell if it requires custom chips). It makes things seem faster due to the parsing out of tasks. Remember the Amiga? Why was it able to do amazing video/audio/animation at a time when most computers had monochrome screens? Simple, custom chips for audio, video, etc…….then again, they did go out o business.

  2. I guess nobody is actually reading the source article. The big news is not H.264 decoding – it’s H.264 ENCODING. Here’s the relevant part of the article:

    “So what’s in it for Apple? Potentially a lot, because the chip Apple has chosen doesn’t cost $7, it costs more like $50, and it doesn’t just do hardware H.264 decoding, it does hardware H.264 ENCODING, too.

    This will change everything. Soon even the lowliest Mac will be able to effortlessly record in background one or more video signals while the user runs TurboTax on the screen. Macs will become superb DVR machines with TiVo-like functionality yet smaller file sizes than any TiVo box could ever produce. In a YouTube world, the new Macs will be a boon to user-produced video, which will, in turn, promote the H.264 standard. By being able to encode in real time, the new Macs will have that American Idol clip up and running faster than could be done on almost any other machine. Add in Slingbox-like capability to throw your home cable signal around the world and it gets even better. Add faster video performance to the already best-of-league iChat audio/video chat client, and every new Mac becomes a webcam or a video phone.

    It’s an aggressive play that fits perfectly with Apple’s traditional role as the hardware platform of choice for new media development. And I am sure the company will have at least one new service or application that will uniquely support this new chip upon which Apple is placing a $500+ million bet.

    Remember, you read it here first.”

  3. Hardware for h264 is a definite plus with Apples media moves. Think about how much faster this could make burning an iMovie in iDVD. How about converting a video clip to MP4 for the iPod. Intel can probably put these chips on the motherboard very cheaply for Apple. I find it exciting to see the technology in notebooks finally taking off. It has been a long time since weve seen anything more than just faster processors and hard drives. I hope that revolutionary battery tech is implemented soon and that 10.5 can make the best use of the multi-core processors.

  4. As usual, the majority of readers on MDN appear to only read the MDN clips, which themselves are very badly edited, and not read the entire article…

    Seriously, before spewing your widely dissenting comments left and right, read the article, and back your words up with some facts…

    Remember, opinions are like assholes, which just means that MDN has more open orifices than a gay bathhouse!

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