September 1, 2016
Intel just debuted its seventh generation of PC chips, featuring a built-in ability to play and edit Ultra HD and 4K video. The chips reflect the fact that an increasing number of younger consumers use portable computers as their go-to device for viewing video content. Although Netflix, most notably among others, has created 4K video programs, consumers have been limited in their ability to see it in its native resolution. The new chips accommodate both HEVC and VP9 compression and support copyright protection software.
According to The Wall Street Journal, in response to the new chipsets, both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Comcast’s Fandango plan to “offer versions of 4K video services targeting new laptops powered by the latest members of its Core product line.”
Young people aren’t simply watching 4K content on laptops. Intel executive Navin Shenoy noted in a blog post that the demographic is “increasingly capturing 4K video on the latest smartphones, which they may want to use PCs to modify and share.”
“Video is the new medium for all conversations,” he wrote.
Although watching 4K video is possible using older processors married with the right software, according to Intel executive Nish Neelalojanan, the 4K video format’s very large data files “are difficult to transmit and store, requiring TVs or other devices that support video-compression technology.” Content providers like Netflix “have been waiting for built-in video compression to make streaming video easier as well as copyright-protection features.”
Additionally, the chips enable PC batteries to run “up to 2.6 times longer” while playing 4K video.
Both Sony Pictures and Fandango will offer services maximized for the new chips, with Sony’s 4K streaming Ultra service, now only available on Sony Bravia TVs, unveiling later this year. The chips will also bolster “a collaboration with The Walt Disney Company using Intel technology to help people viewing movie premieres to watch the action from multiple camera angles.”
Endpoint Technologies Associates’ Roger Kay doesn’t think Intel needs to “strike content deals to spur PC demand.” But, he adds, “4K video support is all the rage. It’s the perfect app for this maybe over-muscular hardware.”
The new chips also mark a shift from the company’s typical performance improvement strategy, based on a pattern named for co-founder Gordon Moore. “Designing circuitry to handle specific functions is now a more reliable way to bring big performance improvements than new manufacturing processes that create smaller transistors in chips,” says WSJ, which reports that “Intel plans to introduce three major families of chips, code-named Kaby Lake, on a production process using circuitry measured at 14 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, rather than two.”
That is expected to result in Web browsing up to 19 percent faster than the previous generation with a 12 percent productivity bump.