RealTime IT News

Intel Says Viva la 'Viiv'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is getting serious about invading the living room. The chipmaker today introduced Viiv (rhymes with jive), its first brand specifically aimed at consumers. The company's other well-known brand is Centrino, which signifies mobile; Intel said Viiv is designed to signify the best entertainment experience.

Viiv PC devices will hold a package of Intel technologies including a dual-core processor, chipset, platform software and wired networking capabilities; they're expected to be available in a variety of form factors from computer and consumer technology manufacturers. In a nod to consumers, Viiv PCs will emphasize ease of use, familiar remote control access devices and a kind of instant-on capability that Intel calls "quick resume." A Viiv will still have to go through a PC-like startup sequence, but once booted, it can be shut off and on and return to its original state instantly.

"No one is a player in total ease of use in the living room [for computing and communications capability]," said Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64. "If Intel can make it easy enough for consumers, they have a chance to cement a strong position."

A prototype device, a bright yellow sealed box the shape and size of a hard-cover book, was shown at the Viiv announcement, made at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco.

Intel wouldn't disclose any of the companies planning to make Viiv devices, but you can expect many Intel customers in the consumer space to participate, along with new ones. "I'm much more interested in new PCs with more capabilities that look nothing like today," said Don MacDonald, vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group. He said Intel will establish a Viiv certification process and is working with online services and software providers to make movies, music, photos and games available for Viiv.

While bullish on Viiv's prospects, MacDonald was blunt about the risks in a session with reporters following the announcement.

"We have a perishable window, but this is about what we do best: silicon and core processing. We can't afford any execution issues, and we don't expect any to happen," said MacDonald. He also noted that Intel views Viiv as a standalone business that has to succeed on its own merits, not as an adjunct to be subsidized by its PC business.

Traditional PC software makers will have to adjust to Viiv if they want to participate. MacDonald emphasized the importance of programs for a 10-foot viewing distance from the comfort of a living room couch, not traditional desktop PC apps.

All PCs based on Intel Viiv technology will ship with a remote control, the Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition operating system and media software Intel said will be designed to let consumers interact with the PC in the same way they operate a TV. Consumers will be able to, for example, watch a movie or play a game while also downloading the latest music, via a remote control.

Each Intel Viiv technology-based PC will also ship with 5.1 surround sound (with optional support for up to 7.1 surround sound) for home theater-quality sound. With an optional TV tuner card, Viiv PCs will be able to record, pause and rewind live TV programs, and store them on the hard drive for later viewing.

The Viiv technology suite includes an integrated media server "engine" that can reformat various digital content files so they can be viewed on a selection of devices verified by Intel to work with Viiv systems. Additionally, Intel said it has worked with the PC, consumer electronic and content industries to set interoperability Specifications, so that consumers can easily move a variety of online media from room to room and between various devices in the home network.