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The Cell: Not Just for Games

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on January 7, 2008

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.

Reader Comments

Micky Two Fingers

January 11, 2008 8:17 AM

that is awesome


January 11, 2008 8:30 AM

Why compressed when we can get the new WirelessHD systems (using 60Ghz wireless Unlicensed spectrum) to transmit at uncompressed speeds across the Home Network??

Steve Wildstrom

January 11, 2008 9:17 AM

@Jim--The technology is designed for transmissions over the Internet, not a home network. Furthermore, even WirelessHD is much more a cable replacement technology than home networking: It's range is only 10 meters or so.


January 11, 2008 9:22 AM

Compression allows transmission of files over the internet, rather than just within a home network.

David Gerard

January 11, 2008 12:54 PM

So is this an exciting new codec, a twist on some aspect of an old codec, or just using an old codec with the compression turned way up?

Steve Wildstrom

January 11, 2008 2:21 PM

@David Gerard--It's not quite any of the above. In effect, it's a new encoder that can output video in any of a number of formats, including H.264 and ON2 (Flash). This allows the highly compressed video to be decoded by existing codecs and viewed in unmodified players. For a bit more information, see

Jack Bailey

January 14, 2008 5:05 AM

@all--Codecsys is the only(patented) multi-codec device. This means it may use two, three or even more different codecs to send a video stream. H.264 or anything else on its own, cannot compete with CodecSys incorporating an H.264 codec alongside several others to pick up the slack. This is truly a paradigm shift in the way codecs are used, Broadcast International (BCST) has a huge future ahead with this technology.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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