Tech Industry

450-MHz Pentium II for digital TV

Intel believes that the PC architecture can serve as the digital television receiver of the future.

LAS VEGAS--As part of an effort to find new markets for its processors, Intel (INTC) is demonstrating a future Pentium II processor running digital TV at the National Association of Broadcasters convention here.

The demonstration is central to Intel's belief that the PC architecture is powerful enough to serve as the digital television receiver of the future.

The fastest chip Intel currently ships is a 333-MHz Pentium II. The speedy 450-MHz processor is not expected to be available until July, according to various industry sources.

Intel's demonstration takes compressed digital data from a digital TV broadcast and plays the information back using a future, high-performance Pentium II processor. So far, Intel is able to take full motion video at 360 lines of resolution and display it in the high definition digital TV format known as 720p. The "p" stands for progressive scan, which is the display format used by today's computers.

Essentially, Intel is playing back high definition images at half-resolution.

The company is advocating the use of Intel chips to decipher and playback all of the myriad digital TV formats--a role which could help Intel remain a key player in emerging markets.

Also at the show, Compaq is demonstrating the playback of the 720p format, but with the use of an additional specialized processor for better performance.

Earlier today, Intel senior vice president Ron Whittier noted that the company is working on technology that allows computers to receive and play back 720p using only the host Pentium processor. But he noted that this "requires more horsepower."

Whittier expects that by the end of the year enough power will be available in prototype Intel processors to take the highest definition format and play it back using software that runs on the main processor.

Since a similar keynote last year, Intel has increased its focus on information appliances rather than PCs as the primary platform for delivery of digital TV. The digital TV technology being demonstrated this week is likely to trickle to more mainstream markets over the next several years, Whittier predicted.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.