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Intel Adds a Nook to the Digital Home

Intel continued its quest to build what it calls the "digital home" with a handful of major capital investments.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant said it has split up a total of $200 million in venture funding between four companies. Intel did not disclose specific breakdowns of the payout, which is part of its Intel Digital Home Fund.

Since its inception in January, the division has been looking at supporting up-and-coming companies that specialize in technology that lets people edit, manage and access content between PCs and devices such as TVs, video recorders, handhelds on a wireless home network.

The recipients include Lawrenceville, N.J.-based Digital 5, which provides consumer electronics networking technology; Staccato Communications, an ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless hardware and software developer and fabless semiconductor company based in San Diego; San Francisco-based Trymedia Systems, which distributeS PC games and other software; and Wisair, a UWB wireless chipset company out of Tel Aviv, Israel.

"These four companies' technologies help solve key interoperability, bandwidth and distribution issues," Intel Capital President John Miner said in a statement.

Prior to launching the Intel Digital Home Fund in January, Intel Capital had invested in several digital home-related companies, including BridgeCo, Entropic Communications, Musicmatch. and Zinio Systems.

Intel has been devoting time and money to beef up its presence in the consumer device space. In the last three months, Intel unveiled platform designs for "Florence," the new category of entertainment PCs expected to be available from OEM suppliers beginning in 2004.

Intel and Movielink also announced plans to bring first-run movies to home computers and mobile PCs. Intel and Dolby Laboratories also announced plans to bring consumer electronics-quality audio to PCs based on Intel High Definition Audio.

The chipmaking giant is also one of the founders of the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG). The non-profit organization is looking at standardizing certain technical design guidelines to develop digital home products that share content through wired or wireless networks in the home, while protecting the content from piracy.

Intel also said this week that it is working with Adobe, Boeing and more than 30 other companies in the formation of a 3D Industry Forum whose goal is to promote a standard geared to render interactive 3D content as digital audio, video and photos. The group is expected to work with Ecma International, an international standards body, on a Universal 3D Format proposal as an ISO standard.

Intel said the first version of the Universal 3D open format would be released later this year with a sample player and runtime libraries to support adoption and implementation. Key features will include streaming and compression, animation and the capability for end users to begin interacting with the content before the entire file is downloaded to its destination.

"Each time a new media standard has been enabled in computing and communications, it has lead to an explosion of new uses and new markets," Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger said during a company conference in Spain this week. "This collaboration between different industries marks a significant step toward turning 3D graphics into the next ubiquitous media, the same way the JPG-file format brought pictures to our PCs, the Internet and even cell phones."

Intel is also working hard to make its name synonymous with wireless Internet technology such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX and UWB. As previously reported, large portions of the company's $4.8 billion R&D budget in 2004 have been dedicated to working with carrier and OEM partners on interoperability.