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RealTime IT News

Microsoft, Intel Target Home Entertainment

Those who had the biggest impact in the PC world are looking to repeat their success in the Digital Home.

Microsoft and Intel are expected to announce individual and joint plans they hope will establish both as the best link between PCs, high definition televisions and other consumer devices in homes.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, is expected to show off Microsoft's latest improvements in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 as the centerpiece of a home networking and entertainment strategy. The launch event in Los Angeles is expected to include Hollywood star power touting the operating system.

Microsoft's XP Media Center was one of the first software operating systems to come up with a unified interface for servers, storage, music players, and DVDs -- all of which could be controlled by remote. The latest incarnation, code-named "Symphony," hopes to capitalize on the popularity of digital-recording devices like TiVo and it's own UltimateTV, which combines Internet access with television services.

The world's largest software vendor is also slated to debut its related "Media Center Extender" products that will connect high definition televisions, set-top boxes and Microsoft Xbox. Gates showed off the technologies at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

At the same time, Intel executives will be presenting the company's wares in New York to highlight its progress in the digital home beyond the desktop.

The No. 1 chipmaker has been devoting time and money to beef up its presence in the consumer device space. Company officials said Robert Crooke, vice president of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, is to unveil platform designs for a new category of entertainment PCs Intel calls Entertainment PCs (EPCs) from OEM suppliers like Dell and HP.

The computers are thin enough to slip into an entertainment rack and based on the Pentium 4 processor with the Intel 915 Express chipset family (aka Grantsdale), which includes Hyper-Threading, DDR2 memory, PCI Express, Intel integrated access, point technology, Intel RAID technology, Intel High Definition Audio (previously known as Azalea), and Serial ATA and Advanced Host Controller Interface Specification (AHCI).

The chipsets also support Intel's Wireless Connect Technology, Graphics Media Accelerator, Matrix Storage Technology, and Flex Memory Technology.

Microsoft and Intel are both champions of the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA). The consortium is an offshoot of the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG), which is working on the construction of digital rights management (DRM) content protection with interoperability between platforms targeted for 2005.

According to the DLNA, there are approximately 100 million homes in the U.S. market in which about 68 percent to date already have at least one PC in the home and broadband to the home has increased to about 20 percent of the market, according to the DLNA. That same trend is an International one. In Japan, Korea and Singapore, well over 50 percent of the homes are already using some type of digital device to access the Internet and the same goes for Scandinavia and the developed countries in Europe.

The concept continues a crossover approach between the PC and entertainment center, called Media Center, which Microsoft debuted in 2002. Worldwide sales of 1.5 million digital media centers were expected for this year, but analyst firm IDC no concedes sales of more than 500,000 is a bit more realistic.