Intel's Katmai chip aimed at video

Intel's Katmai Pentium II processor, due next year, will boost how 3D graphics and video are viewed and manipulated.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
PALM SPRINGS, California--If anything, the upcoming Katmai processors from Intel will be a boon for budding filmmakers.

The Katmai Pentium II processors due in the first quarter of 1999 will provide a boost to how 3D graphics and video data get viewed and manipulated on standard PCs. Katmai technology has also been referred to as "MMX 2," which is the successor to Intel's current MMX technology found in Pentium II processors.

The upshot: Streams of images will run more smoothly when replayed, or edited, on Katmai-enabled programs on Katmai-based PCs, according to experts.

This kind of technology is available today but generally at a higher price.

"Good video-editing machines start at $6,000 to $12,000. Katmai will enable them to knock a few thousand off of that," said Peter Glaskowsky, graphics analyst for MicroDesign Resources. With 3D applications, "you can have more complete scenes, or more frames per second," he added.

The technology is similar to the 3D Now! Technology found on AMD K6-2 processors, but is more comprehensive, said Nathan Brookwood, an independent processor analyst.

The Katmai processors differ from current Pentium IIs in that they contain 70 additional processor instructions, according to Albert Yu, vice president of microprocessors at Intel. With the new instructions, the Katmai processors will, ideally, be able to more readily process commands for compressing video, presenting 3D images from game programs, or translating speech input into digital commands.

Some of the instructions will also allow for better audio quality as well as "realistic movement physics" in 3D images, he said.

"3D developers will be able to do physics equations for object movement rather than do every detail by hand," Yu said.

But Katmai processors do not perform these functions automatically. Software developers have to write their applications to recognize the instructions. Software vendors will only adopt these instructions over time, and then only some will take advantage of them, said Glaskowsky and others.

Still, over time, if developers write to Katmai, the user experience will be enhanced.

Game developers seem anxious to use Katmai technology. "Katmai is going to have a huge impact on us," said Gabe Newell, managing director at Valve, a PC game vendor.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.