AMD Preps New LIVE! Consumer Devices

Attempts at PC and home entertainment convergence have failed more often than Lyndon LaRouche’s Presidential bids. But that’s not stopping AMD, which is making some big announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas.

AMD  announced several new products under its LIVE! brand, designed to bridge the gap between high-end consumer electronics and PC technology, including an all-in-one box that consolidates several consumer devices into one.

“Last year at CES was the year of the glass. You went to CES and saw flat panels everywhere. This year will be about connectivity to get your content to that glass,” said Aaron Feen, director of consumer marketing at AMD.

The biggest announcement of the bunch is AMD LIVE! Home Cinema, an all-in-one device that combines a set-top cable box, stereo receiver, DVD player, digital video recorder and PC.

The Home Cinema handles multiple functions, from several devices. It’s a cable box with a built-in DVR and also a stereo receiver with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. It’s also a DVD player and has the internals of a PC. So you can watch movies in surround sound, watch regular, digital and high definition cable, or play back digital photos on your high definition TV, all from one box.

With all that technology in one box, it won’t be cheap. Feen said the starting price for Home Cinema will be $1,000 and can go up to $3,000, depending on options. It will play standard DVDs for now, but he said the option to add HD DVD  or Blu-ray  DVD will come later. AMD expects to ship the product in 90 days and said it will be available from a number of consumer electronics and PC companies.

Another product blurring the lines between PCs and home entertainment is the AMD LIVE! Home Media Server, for consumers with a lot of digital media. Many customers have purchased network-attached storage (NAS) devices to hold all of their videos, pictures and MP3s, but Feen said there’s a shortcoming to these products.

“They can’t stream content if you want video. The connection isn’t the problem, the problem is NAS isn’t fast enough to get content on the wire,” he said. With a faster processor in its Media Server, data can now be streamed off a server, either wireless or wired.

One of AMD’s partners, HP , plans to announce the HP MediaSmart Server, which will incorporate AMD LIVE! Home Media Server and Microsoft’s new Windows Home Server software, which is also being introduced at CES. AMD expects the first Media Servers will ship in the third quarter. Pricing has not been established.

The third announcement is the AMD LIVE! notebook PC branding, which follows up the AMD Live desktop PC, announced earlier this year. The specs for a LIVE! notebook is an AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core processor, with a high performance graphics chip and 1 GB of memory. It also comes with the AMD LIVE! Entertainment Suite, first introduced with the desktop PC.

AMD LIVE! Entertainment Suite, the free service for LIVE! PCs, is getting an update. Among the services will be the ability to pre-format content for other devices, like mobile phones, and the ability to move around large amounts of files, up to 750MB, between devices. The new features will be available on AMD LIVE!

Finally, AMD LIVE! PC customers will gain a new feature that will allow them to stream Web-based videos and digital photos to their TV via their cable box. This will largely be a European offering at first, as AMD has deals with Avtrex, Futarque and Worldsat. It expects to sign up American cable box providers later this year.

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