Intel’s new Pine Trail platform is all over the news in the last day or so as its early release has brought about HORDES of news releases from partners announcing new netbooks and similar systems.  The big draw back to Pine Trail, in my view, is that it doesn’t significantly change performance for the user or offer hardware decode acceleration of HD video or Flash video.  To try and convince customers that this isn’t a problem Intel has been working with Broadcom to include the BCM70015 Crystal HD chip as an optional addition that adds support for H.264 video and Blu-ray decode offloading from the slow Atom processing cores.

Broadcom claims "software support" for Flash 10.1, Windows Media Player 12 - Processors 3Broadcom claims "software support" for Flash 10.1, Windows Media Player 12 - Processors 4

Broadcom recently contacted me about their technology and left a couple of very interesting quotes that left me confused.  Here is one (emphasis mine):

Broadcom also today announced the BCM70015, its next-generation of the Crystal HD solution. The BCM70015, provides software support for Adobe Flash Player (v10.1), Windows Media Player (v12), as well as support for other third-party media players including both commercial and open-source. It is targeted for PC/x86 applications and supports the playback of streaming video, Blu-ray Disc, file-based content and broadcast

To the uninitiated, the Broadcom chip is essentially a piece of hardware that is built solely to speed up video decoding and could be included in any number of products, not limited to x86 systems.  Intel knew that HD video was going to be a big deal (especially with NVIDIA barking up this tree constantly) so they needed a strong partner.  Until I read this though, I was under the assumption that the BCM70015 had a VERY narrow focus to Blu-ray and other specifically formatted files. 

Ever since NVIDIA and AMD announced GPU acceleration for Adobe Flash 10.1 beta, the netbook market has been buzzing about getting the NVIDIA ION chipset (currently only functional with the previous Atom platform) in more designs.  But, if the Broadcom chip does in fact accelerate the same or similar allotment of applications, it might in fact be a suitable counter to NVIDIA’s solution. 

Is Broadcom just saying that they accelerate video in only these software applications?  Or is it something slightly different than traditional hardware decoding?  We have put in the question to quite a few different people at both Intel and Broadcom to see what we get back!

Broadcom’s new single chip Crystal HD enhanced video accelerator enables near flawless playback of 1080p High Definition (HD) video across a wide range of systems throughout the industry. By lowering CPU utilization, power consumption, and integrating seamlessly into Microsoft Windows 7, Windows® XP and Linux environments, Broadcom Crystal HD offers cost-effective, near flawless playback of HD video giving consumers a rich multimedia experience.

Integration into popular media player software including Adobe® Flash® Player, the vast library of online HD content from popular websites is now available for enjoyment on netbooks at low a cost and without sacrificing the portability and long battery life of the netbook platform.

The BCM70015 single chip Crystal HD solution provides manufacturers with a highly integrated low power, low cost solution that addresses one of the key performance challenges on netbook platforms: near seamless playback of online streaming HD video. Broadcom Crystal HD brings the advantages of high definition H.264 and VC-1 video compression to netbooks providing near flawless playback of streaming media and Blu-ray Disc®, file-based content and broadcast (and other TV sources).