Intel announces new entertainment PC platform for digital home media

San Francisco (CA) - In the wake of its successful Centrino marketing campaign - where mobile computers that meet certain requirements qualify for the Centrino brand - Intel today announced a new and more sweeping branding scheme for personal computers in 2006.

The clear goal of Intel's new Viiv technology (rhymes with "jive") - also known as Intel Branded Platform for Digital Home PCs - is to move dual-core processor-based systems into the home. The secondary goal is apparently to move single-core processors out of Intel's product line more quickly, since it will be less expensive for factories to produce multicore processors if they're not simultaneously producing single-core. In a preview of future advertising attractions, Viiv characterizes its dual-core foundation as "two cool."

In a press release this morning, Intel's VP for the new digital home group, Don MacDonald, said, "Intel Viiv technology marks the intersection point where innovation, a multitude of digital devices, first-class entertainment and state of the art technology converge to put consumers in more control of experiencing digital entertainment on their own terms."

Advising consumers, "Don't get up from that couch," Intel's latest branding scheme represents the latest in a series of plays for households with disposable income. Viiv PCs will be equipped with Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition, and a special kind of remote control, which has yet to be seen. But by characterizing this new PC category as having TiVo-like functionality, TV tuner cards, home theater-quality sound, and network-based connectivity to both stereo equipment and the Internet, Intel may ironically once again find itself in a contest with its old adversary, Motorola, in the battle to produce the next-generation set-top box (STB). In the midst of that fracas, Intel may also wind up mired in the standards battle for high-definition discs and Internet-to-TV connectivity, where it has had limited experience to date.

But to earn the STB space, a Viiv PC will have to look "cool." So without giving specifics, an Intel "Fun Facts" sheet issued today states that physical style will be a factor for units seeking to qualify for Viiv branding. Styles may range from tower profiles to sleek, horizontal units that more closely resemble DVD players.

One of the goals of Intel's networking approach appears not to be to deploy multiple Viiv systems per household, as it is to deploy individual dual-core systems, each of which becomes the home's media server. "Intel dual-core processors allow multiple people to use one PC at the same time from different rooms in the house," stated a press release. "For example, kids can download and watch a movie on the Intel Viiv technology-based PC in the family room, while parents listen to music streamed from the same PC through a digital media adapter to the stereo in another room."

In an even fuzzier description, a diagram released today of a future Viiv-endowed household, shows an unbranded portable media player, captioned by the words, "Enjoy digital content and play games around the home." The implication here is that a WiFi portable gaming console should be able to connect to a Viiv home network. Apparently streaming video can be served to a portable console through a wireless connection, served by a Viiv system.

The diagram also showed a Pentium Extreme Edition-based system for suggested deployment in the "student's room," indicating at least a brief reprieve for the hyperthreading-endowed processor.

Yesterday, to whet attendees' appetites for today's news, Intel representatives advised them they would be witness to the end of TV as they know it. Price estimates for future Viiv components were not given.

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