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Apple to Add Dedicated Video Hardware to Macs?

AlleyInsider publishes an unconfirmed rumor that Apple will be incorporating QuickTime encoding/decoding chips into their products in the coming months. AlleyInsider's Dan Frommer describes it as "pure speculation" but felt it plausible enough to publish for discussion.

Our understanding is that a QuickTime encoding/decoding chip would handle the grunt work of processing video, presumably in the H.264 format, so that Mac computers' processors wouldn't have to do as much heavy lifting. That could be used in any number of cirumstances, such as a live, hi-def iChat AV video chat, watching HD video off the Web, or faster encoding HD video for distribution. (Perhaps the iSight cameras built into MacBooks and iMacs might get a HD upgrade, too.)

The rumor actually mirrors an old claim by Robert Cringely from 2007 that describes the same details:

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 to ALL of its new computers beginning fairly soon, certainly this year.

The significance of this rumor is somewhat unclear as many modern day graphics cards already contain dedicated H.264 decoding hardware. The addition of encoding hardware, however, may be of benefit for low end and mobile configurations.

Incidentally, H.264 is one of the codecs used in Blu-Ray high definition video discs which Apple has yet to adopt.