Intel has announced its latest PC audio technology--High Definition Audio
(formerly known by the code name Azalia), which comprises controller chips on upcoming motherboards, the design of related circuitry (to ensure a quality signal), and codecs, all designed to allow the encoding and decoding of multi-track audio directly by the CPU, without the need for expensive sound cards or DSP chips.
The combination is designed to support high bit-rate surround sound--192 kHz, 32-bit, multi-channel audio for at least 7.1 discrete channels. This will enable PCs supporting the standard to play back high-end audio formats such as DVD-Audio and SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc), as well as any other content that offers a similar level of quality.
The specification is currently at version 9.0, and although Intel expects it to support any of the current audio codecs, including Dolby Digital, Dolby Headphone, DTS, and others, the company has thus far only demonstrated it with the Dolby Pro Logic IIx decoder.
The final specification is expected by the middle of this year, and will be royalty-free (royalties will of course be required for whatever codecs are actually run on a High Definition Audio system).
MDC Recommendations for Azalia Implementation