Companies ranging from Microsoft, Apple, AMD, and Nvidia have all worked for years to tap into graphics cards for certain kinds of non-gaming processing tasks, an approach typically referred to as GPU computing. Growing ever more prevalent, GPU computing has made its way to Web browsers, Photoshop, as well as both recent versions of Apple's and Microsoft's operating systems. That's why we were so surprised by ConceivablyTech's report today that Microsoft has been awarded a patent for GPU-Accelerated video encoding.
The abstract of the patent reads as follows:
A video encoding system uses both a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processing unit (GPU) to perform video encoding. The system implements a technique that enables the GPU to perform motion estimation for video encoding. The technique allows the GPU to perform a motion estimation process in parallel with the video encoding process performed by the CPU. The performance of video encoding using such a system is greatly accelerated as compared to encoding using just the CPU. Also, data related to motion estimation is arranged and provided to the GPU in a way that utilizes the capabilities of the GPU. Data about video frames may be collocated to enable multiple channels of the GPU to process tasks in parallel. The depth buffer of the GPU may be used to consolidate repeated calculations and searching tasks during the motion estimation process.
By our reading, this sounds like exactly what Nvidia supports by way of its CUDA technology and Elemental Technologies' Badaboom video conversion program from 2008. That same year, Adobe announced support for GPU acceleration in Creative Suite 4, a feature it's carried through to its more recent Creative Suite 5. It's worth noting the Microsoft filed the application for the patent in 2004, before any of the above products existed.
We've asked Apple, AMD, Microsoft, and Nvidia for their responses to this news. Neither Apple nor Microsoft have responded, but Nvidia and AMD both inform us they're looking into the matter. We'll update once we hear back.