CES: Intel’s effort to lure Hollywood to PCs with new chips

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Intel showed off its second-generation Core chips at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Wednesday. Or rather, the company showed off what the chips could do, particularly the graphics capabilities that aim to make separate graphics chips redundant. The most impressive thing to me was the ability to render photorealistic, 3-D images in real time. Oh and yes, the images move -- for example, mimicking the expression of whoever’s facing the computer’s webcam. One can imagine all sorts of gaming applications, as well as some not-so-welcome capabilities to assume someone else’s (virtual) persona.

The company also unveiled Intel Insider, a new security feature on the chips designed to enable more circumvention-resistent electronic locks. The technology -- essentially, the ability to embed into the chip itself part of the security protecting a piece of content, so that the content can be unlocked only by the chip -- was good enough that at least one major studio, Warner Bros., was persuaded to make high-definition versions of its movies available for downloading.


Of course, consumers may not welcome the ability to download a movie that’s locked to their PC. Intel addresses part of that shortcoming through its WiDi (wireless display) technology, which can beam a movie securely in high definition from a PC to a WiDi-equipped television. But such TVs don’t make up a significant percentage of the sets in homes today. Instead, Intel Insider seems more like one part of an overall solution that also involves online storage, streaming to a range of devices and some sharing of content within a household -- in other words, like what Sonic Solutions does with its RoxioNow platform, and what the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem plans to do with UltraViolet.

Kevin Tsujihara, head of Warner Bros.’ home entertainment group, acknowledged that his company no longer had excuses for withholding high-definition content from PCs. But he added, ‘Now have to make this a service instead of a product.’

Sonic announced Wednesday that it was supporting Intel Insider. At the Intel press event, Intel executives demonstrated how Sonic’s technology recognized when a computer had one of the new chips and automatically made high-definition versions of selected movies available for downloading.


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-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times’ Opinion Manufacturing Division.