RealTime IT News

Intel's 'Inside' Track in Digital Homes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel's passion to fuel the "digital home" of the future has burst into some very present day deals.

The chip making giant Tuesday reaffirmed its ties with Hollywood by announcing an open-ended co-marketing and technology partnership with Los Angeles-based Movielink, a broadband provider of movie videos on demand. Intel said its goal is to push premium online movie content to multiple devices in the home, as well as mobile PCs.

And while the majority of the world is still on dial-up connections, the deal is just the latest example of how the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaking giant is counting on its chip technologies to lead consumers to its advanced products.

Company vice president and Desktop Platforms Group general manager Louis Burns said Intel's partnership with Movielink's broadband video-on-demand (VOD) service along with help from some digital rights groups is helping the cause, for example.

"Hollywood has made the move. Revelations has led the way. It [consumer buy in] is going to happen," Burns said to attendees at the company's semi-annual developer's forum here. To prime the pump, Intel's deal includes sponsoring the AOL and Movielink "Winter Movie Special," as well as sponsoring and promoting Movielink's College site.

However, much of Intel's VOD and digital home strategy depends on consumers using its hardware as common ground, or as Burns called it, a "unified platform." Key among these new technologies is Intel's new Pentium 4 processor (Prescott) and a pair of upcoming chipsets code-named "Grantsdale," (expected to ship in "high 10s of millions" in the second quarter of this year) and "Alderwood" (an enthusiast chipset designed for Pentium Extreme Edition chips). The company is also investing heavily in PCI-Express , liquid crystal on Silicon (LCOS), and Dolby-enhanced High Definition Audio, formerly codenamed Azalia.

Intel's version is an entertainment PC code-named "Kessler," which Intel designed to act like a whole rack of multiple devices into a single unit. The company said the platform would be available to PC manufacturers later this year.

"When we hear the phrase 'digital home,' we automatically think about entertainment, but the digital home goes way beyond entertainment and far beyond a home's four walls," Burns said.

In addition to developing platforms, Intel said it is working with hardware, software and content and service companies to complete its ecosystem. The company announced the first building block products validated for the Intel Networked Media Product Requirements (Intel NMPR). The Intel NMPR-validated middleware solutions available from BridgeCo, icube, Mediabolic and Oregan Networks, are expected in a few months.

Through the $200 million Intel Digital Home Fund, Intel is also investing in companies developing hardware and software, as well as connectivity and supporting technologies.

To bring the device and Web services worlds together, Burns said BEA Systems , Canon Inc., Intel and Microsoft have published a new Web services specification called WS-Discovery. With WS-Discovery, Burns said the spec would operate whenever a device is connected to a network, leaves a network or is looking to see what else is on a network.

In separate keynotes, Intel CEO Craig Barrett and Burns showed a Kessler-style prototype reference design from Intel code-named "Sandow." The platform is due out in 2005 from some of Intel's lesser-known partners and is expected to feature "instant on/visually off" capability and a high-definition TV personal video recorder. Intel also demonstrated Kessler's abilities combining wireless USB over Ultra wideband technologies.

"If we want to grow this market, we have to give customers what they want and they don't want to become IT experts," Burns said. "We must make the whole experience simple.