Looking to accelerate HD streaming, Intel goes on defensive over new chip

Intel went on the defensive at the CES show over its new Sandy Bridge PC chips, which are designed to secure streaming of HD movies from online movie services to personal computers.

Sandy Bridge chips have a new “Insider” feature that unlocks HD movies from online streaming services. Needless to say, the chip is controversial with many at CES who charge that Intel is trying to gain control of online movies by requiring end users to have Sandy Bridge processors in their computers.

Intel defended the Sandy Bridge technology — in the form of 29 processors for various PC models — arguing that it is trying to provide a security layer that will encourage studios to stream HD movies to PCs instead of keeping them locked.

Sandy Bridge’s Insider technology establishes a secure connection between streaming services and PCs with new Core i3, i5 or i7 chips, which are based on the processor’s architecture. Introduced at CES, the processors have specialized authentication and encryption hardware and firmware to establish the secure connection.

But Insider is not intended to be digital rights management (DRM) technology, and it is not intended to limit the availability of content to users, said Josh Newman, Intel’s graphics marketing director. “Insider technology establishes a secure connection to prevent movies from being copied from over the network or inside the PC.”

“It gives PCs the level of trust that the studio needs to make their content available. In the past they were very leery of [streaming] content. It’s not a DRM technology at all,” Newman argued.

However, studios can implement their own DRM technology, and Intel will take that into consideration. That should make available more streaming 1080p content, which is not yet available on a large scale.

“If you look at Blu-ray in the PC, that required a protected path that was developed. It’s similar to that; it’s a hardened path to get that next level of hardening and convincing studios that it’s a safer environment,” Newman said.

At CES, it was announced that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, which currently streams online content only in SD, will use the new security layer to start streaming movies in HD. Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, made the announcement at an Intel press event.

The motion picture studio is making 300 new HD titles available for streaming, and in the future, it may also start streaming 3-D content to PCs over the secure connections, Tsujihara said.

Sandy Bridge arrived at the CES show in several high-end, $1000-plus, laptop computers. One of the first models to be introduced came from Hewlett-Packard, which offered two variations of the new Pavilion dv7.