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Intel's Moblin 2.1 Linux Operating System to Support AIR, Silverlight
Moblin 2.1 can run on anything from mobile phones to full PCs, and its Silverlight and AIR support offers a compelling alternative to the iPhone OS. Also announced were a new GPU and chip enhancements.
Wed., Sept. 23, by Tim Siglin

Intel is holding its annual developer's forum in San Francisco this week. Setting the groundwork, CEO Paul Otellini talked yesterday about the "continuum of personal computing." Otellini spent some time talking about the traditional Intel chip story, at one point showing off a working 22nm silicon, which is about 30% smaller than any of today's chipsets, but he spent the majority of the time talking about how software works closely with hardware.

"Software is what binds the continuum together," said Otellini, "and software is changing. Today it's all about multiple clients and multiple clouds."

To that end, on the second day of the IDF, Renee James, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group, addressed several issues of interest to Streaming Media readers.

First off, James mentioned that Intel was launching a Media Software Development Kit for its upcoming Larrabee GPU, the company's first discrete graphics processor unit in almost a decade.

"Visual effects will take fewer lines of code, using the new SDK," James said. "The Larrabee chip will also support standards such as DirectX, OpenGL, and OpenCL. For a visual effect like a film grain, we can reduce 129 lines of code on a traditional GPU to 25 lines of code on Larrabee."

Lincoln Wallen, head of research and development at Dreamworks Animation, which was an early user of Intel's Nehalem chips, provided a bit of clarity around this topic. Noting that compute power requirements double with every generation of the Shrek movie franchise, Wallen said that additional GPU acceleration will significantly reduce 3D and traditional video render times.

"Dreamworks uses almost 1,000 controls to manage the dragon's performance and behavior," said Wallen, referring to a character in Shrek. "That's a steep compute load but our next version may take 4,000 controls, so we continually additional computing power."

Secondly, to meet that computing power demand for average users, Intel announced two chip enhancements, one for servers and one for the average user.

"We’re on track for production in the first quarter [of 2010]," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s server platforms group, discussing new quad-core server chips based on Nehalem. The initial versions of these chips were found in the HP Z800 workstations ,which has been instrumental in both Dreamworks' advanced computing needs.

For acceleration of transcoding and editing tools from Adobe and others, Intel is also moving these server-grade chips to the laptop. Nehalem-based quad-core Core i7 Extreme and Core i7 for laptops will be manufactured beginning in the fourth quarter of 2009. A comparison of these new chips for laptops can be found here, but the essence is that quad-core laptop chips are just around the corner, under the code names of Arrandale and Clarkdale. The latter will integrate a graphics processor alongside the CPU in a two-chip package.

Third, and perhaps most important for Streaming Media readers, Intel unveiled its Moblin 2.1 Linux-based operating system. Billed as a scaleable operating system, Intel says it can run on anything from mobile phones through to full PCs.

Given its ability to scale, one would think that Microsoft would be loathe to provide Siliverlight functionality for Moblin, but the lure of the iPhone-style software development kit that lets developers create for any size screen may be just the draw that Microsoft needs.

Indeed, Intel announced that Moblin 2.1 includes support for both Adobe's AIR and Microsoft's Silverlight, so that Moblin will be capable of displaying Flash and Silverlight content, something the iPhone cannot do.

"Using Silverlight's cross-device, cross-browser, cross-platform technology," said Ian Ellison Taylor, general manager, Microsoft Client Platforms and Tools, "developers will be able to write applications once and have them run on Windows and Moblin devices. This expands the reach of Silverlight applications to more consumers, regardless of whether the device they're using is a PC, TV, or phone,"

Mark Shuttleworth, who helped launch Ubuntu several years ago and was quoted a few months ago as saying that "Moblin is a very determined, risky effort on Intel’s part," today was part of the Moblin announcement.

Shuttleworth was the presenter for Dell's Moblin 10v presentation, a developer-edition netback that runs Canonical's Moblin Netbook Remix. The 10v will be available for sale on September 24.

"We're a strong supporter of the Intel Atom Developer Program," said John Thode, Dell VP Small Consumer Devices.

Microsoft says that Silverlight for Moblin will be shipping next year, but that interested parties can visit silverlight.net to get started now.

One tweeter following the presentation, Ron Espiritu, who goes by the Twitter handle kuyaron, thought the approach was the right one.

"Adobe AIR/Flash and MS Silverlight are on board with Intel Atom Developer Program," said Espiritu. "What happened to Java?"