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TG Daily Top-10: Technology disappointments of 2006

#7 Intel Viiv and AMD Live!

Boy, Don MacDonald, former general manager of consumer electronics efforts and recently promoted to vice president of sales and market and general manager of corporate brands and marketing, will not be happy seeing Viiv appearing on this list (MacDonald gave us an in-depth interview on Viiv in July.)

Let's take a step back from all the advertising and marketing blurbs and have a real world look at the entertainment PC platforms of the two processor manufacturers.

Intel and AMD promised a whole new approach (two different approaches, actually) to digital TV. Viiv and Live are technologies that are designed to make the computer more useful for entertainment and provide the functionality of what is often described as a digital entertainment hub in our home. About a year ago, we were told Viiv would be key to participate in a movie premiere (at home, on your sofa, whether you like the movie theater or not) and bring a wealth of content to our home.

The fact is that this promise has not become a reality yet. Viiv and the competing Live! are marketing names for a combination of hardware components. Both names indicate very little added use for the PC buyer today, but allowed both processor manufacturers to stick yet another label on your new PC.

An early Viiv PC

In preparation for Vista, I recently bought a new PC for our office and it appears that these days you really don't have much choice in PC operating systems, at least when you want to buy from your local retail store. Windows Media Center Edition is standard in the price range above $500 and more than half of these PCs carry either a Viiv or a Live! logo. So I ended up with a Viiv PC and I was surprised how little Viiv actually offers.

Viiv Content, which is often criticized by AMD as closed feature, is virtually non-existent and Intel's ClickStar joint venture with Morgan Freeman currently tells me that I have to wait another week for a movie to be available.

I admit that I have very little experience with AMD Live! and I'd have to speculate on available Live! content. But I don't think that it is content why Viiv and Live! are disappointing.

The problem really is that both concepts are not transparent enough to make sense for consumers who consider spicing up their living room experience with a PC. Intel wants to be right under the TV and AMD, which launched Live! as sort of an anti-Intel answer, wants the PC to be a PC but stream entertainment content throughout the house (read this article for some more detail on Live!). There has to be an obvious added value of these technologies to make sense. But both, Intel and AMD, are currently not providing a value that goes beyond the Media Center software. Plus, keep in mind, AMD and Intel are high-tech brands that never succeeded in consumer electronics. Viiv and Live! do not have the genes to change that track record.

Viiv and Live! are marketing terms that fell well short of expectations this year. An improvement for 2007 is rather unlikely, but we know that Apple is prepping an entertainment device, which means that Intel will be equipping a much more conclusive entertainment platform in the near future - even if it won't carry the "Viiv" label.