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MS speeds ahead as Google stalls on hardware acceleration

Video thrilled the browser star

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On the same day that Google Chrome coders pushed back some of the hardware acceleration features they had planned for version 8 of Mountain View’s browser, it was revealed that Microsoft had been awarded a patent for GPU-Accelerated video encoding.

Google has been moving speedily through its own stack of test builds for Chrome, with the company pushing out a first dev version of its 8 code yesterday.

However, in its haste to get the new iterations of the browser out the door, Google also appeared to be conceding that it had to pull back on planned hardware acceleration APIs for CSS rendering, large layers and opacity fixes in version 8, as noted by CNet.

All of which means that those features, along with Chromium hardware-based video decoding, probably won’t see the light of day until the browser hits version 9. That’s not necessarily a big deal, given Google’s rapid release schedule; the code will probably be piped out to its dev channel before the year is out.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is making a big play for hardware acceleration in its Internet Explorer 9 browser. And yesterday, it was finally granted a patent for GPU-Accelerated video encoding after applying for it way back in October 2004, or the days of yore when folk still used a thing known as a desktop computer running Windows XP. Oh, hang on…

But getting the invention’s seal of approval from the US Patent and Trademark Office now is arguably brilliantly timed for Microsoft.

“Because the computational complexity of motion estimation is high, motion estimation occupies a significant portion of the processing power and resources that are needed for the whole encoding process and is usually the bottleneck,” reads the patent’s filing to the USPTO.

“Thus, there is a need for computers to more efficiently perform motion estimation so that video encoding can be accelerated without simply improving the speed of CPUs.”

It’s unclear if the patent could yet be a roadblock to Google’s development of its Chrome browser, but it’s fair to say that MS just scored a small win in the hardware acceleration race. ®

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