The Cell: Not Just for Games

The Cell processor, developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba for the PlayStation 3 was always intended for broader uses, and it made its debut at CES in a couple of intriguing new forms.

A standard high-definition TV stream demands 15 megabits per second of bandwidth to be displayed at full resolution and frame rate. Using software specifically designed for IBM’s Cell Blade server, Broadcast International has developed compression that can take that down to less than 4 megabits, bringing Internet streaming within range on very fast connections. Better yet, the software does the compression using any of a number of standard video formats, meaning this super-compressed video can be watched on existing devices without even new software. I watched a demo at CES and the results were indeed very impressive.

Equally interesting are Toshiba’s Cell plans. It will introduce a new Qosimo home entertainment notebook in the third quarter using something it calls a Spurs Engine. This is a special version of the Cell with four processor cores instead of the usual eight. It will work with both Intel’s upcoming Montevino processor family and an nVIDIA graphics adapter to provide a remarkable level of video processing. Toshiba showed a prototype of the notebook encoding and editing HD content and up-converting standard definition video to HD, all in real time.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot of the cell in coming years.

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