The USPTO has awarded a patent for GPU acceleration of video encoding to Microsoft.
The patent is titled “Accelerated video encoding using a graphics processing unit” and was filed in October 2004. It describes a system where the GPU can perform a “motion estimation process in parallel with the video encoding process performed by the CPU” to shorten all around encoding time.
The patent appears to cover all GPU-accelerated video encoding and if Redmond dreamed it up in 2004, it did not really tell the world about it. The technology and availability to the consumer really appeared with DirectX 10 and Windows Vista in 2007.
Nvidia supported GPGPU (general purpose GPU) computing or stream computing back in 2008 with the release of its Geforce 8800GTX graphics card and underlying CUDA architecture. ATI followed a few months later and began offering GPU acceleration with its HD 2000, 3000 and 4000 graphics cards.
It looks like the first GPU-accelerated video-encoder we know of was Elemental’s Badaboom, which is now potentially infringing Microsoft’s patent. Windows 7 integrates native support for GPU-accelerated video transcoding via the DirectX Compute API.
Microsoft does not do hardware – or so it pretends – and certainly is not famous for its GPU breakthroughs. However the patent would give Microsoft the power to charge Nvidia and AMD licensing fees, if Redmond were so minded.