H.264 rumor

Cringley writes that he’s fairly certain Apple will begin including hardware-based H.264 decoding and encoding to every Mac sold. That would be a sweet NAB stocking stuffer for the industry’s annual Christmas-in-April bash. Before getting all warm and fuzzy about Apple showing us video pros the love, realize it’s not our encoding Apple cares about. It’s about making Mac Minis ass kicking DVRs.

This will change everything. Soon even the lowliest Mac will be able to effortlessly record in background one or more video signals while the user runs TurboTax on the screen. Macs will become superb DVR machines with TiVo-like functionality yet smaller file sizes than any TiVo box could ever produce. In a YouTube world, the new Macs will be a boon to user-produced video, which will, in turn, promote the H.264 standard. By being able to encode in real time, the new Macs will have that American Idol clip up and running faster than could be done on almost any other machine. Add in Slingbox-like capability to throw your home cable signal around the world and it gets even better. Add faster video performance to the already best-of-league iChat audio/video chat client, and every new Mac becomes a webcam or a video phone.

The thing I love about Cringley rumors is that whether or not they come to fruition, they usually should. ThinkSecret rumors don’t have such a track record. Think Final Cut Extreme.

One Thought on “H.264 rumor

  1. Ken Broomfield on March 9, 2007 at 2:07 pm said:

    From the Cringely quote: “In a YouTube world, the new Macs will be a boon to user-produced video, which will, in turn, promote the H.264 standard.”

    But YouTube uses Flash video, which is H.263 not H.264, though I guess you can upload Quicktime H.264 to YouTube, which they will then recompress to terrible-quality H.263. Hardware encoding will probably be very nice for Blu-ray, HD-DVD and other HD encoding, as well as the DVR and Slingbox-like features mentioned.

    I wonder whether the encoder hardware will support MPEG-4 in general (esp., Divx/Xvid) or just H.264, which is a subset of MPEG-4.

    I also wonder what the cost of the chip will be and whether there are any quality tradeoffs (esp., whether one can do two-pass VBR encoding for higher quality). Decode-only hardware will leverage the economies of scale created by Blu-ray and HD-DVD, but a real-time encoder might be expensive at first. And remember when Apple included the Philips Trimedia chip in a high-end Mac, which then failed to garner much software support? Of course the landscape is much different now.

    “The thing I love about Cringley rumors is that whether or not they come to fruition, they usually should.”

    I stopped reading Cringely because of his talent for technical gaffes. 🙂

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