Intel unveils Viiv technology for home entertainment

It rhymes with five, spells 64 if you look at it as a Roman numeral, and if Intel has its way will become as ubiquitous on Media Center PCs as Centrino already is on wireless notebooks. Welcome to Viiv, announced at IDF, the brand for Intel's latest technology to 'enrich consumers' enjoyment of digital entertainment.

Just as the Centrino badge can only be used on notebooks with Intel Pentium M processors, Intel chipsets and Intel wireless chips, the Viiv badge will only be available to use on PCs with an Intel dual-core processor, Intel chipset, Intel networking chips and - it seems likely - Intel audio chipsets. The only other confirmed component is Microsoft's Media Center operating system.

While Media Center PCs today are often just standalone devices, primarily aimed to replace the TV, Viiv PCs will be designed as part of a home network. 'We're taking connectivity to a new level,' said Don MacDonald, general manager of Intel Digital Home Group, as he revealed the brand.

MacDonald knows that the key to Viiv's success will be its ease of use and its ability to work with consumer electronics, and he confirmed that Intel was already talking to consumer electronics companies so that people would be able to move their files - in whatever format - from room to room and between various devices, including DVD players, TV sets and portable media players, reports PC Pro.

Intel backed up Centrino's launch in 2003 with a $300 million marketing campaign. Since then, the company's share of the notebook chip market has grown steadily.

It was not clear whether Intel would commit the same resources to Viiv (rhymes with "five"). The company also did not disclose the names of PC makers that will offer the PCs or how much subsidy they will receive as an incentive to participate.

Intel recently introduced a computer "platform" for businesses, and its offering in the area of entertainment PCs had been expected.

PC and software makers see the living room as a huge growth opportunity as more entertainment becomes digitized and consumers look for ways to better manage their music, video, photos, movies and television shows.

Viiv-based computers are expected to be available in a variety of forms, ranging from the size of a stereo system component to a more traditional PC tower. All will run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center operating system.

Intel said PC owners will be able to click their Viiv computers on and off, after the initial boot, with the press of a button. The machines also ship with 5.1 surround sound, with an option to upgrade to 7.1.

Viiv systems will include a configuration wizard to walk users through setting up network components using their remote control, informs Business Week.

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