Intel looks set to find itself in the midst of an industry battle over how the power and complexity of computers should be combined with the convenience and simplicity of consumer electronics - and the company couldn't be happier.
Speaking with reporters on the opening day of the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan, Eric Kim, the senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, today praised Apple for successfully integrating computers and consumer electronics with its iPod digital music player and iTunes online store, which use proprietary standards.
However, at the same time he called on Japanese consumer-electronics makers to adopt open standards centered around Intel's own Viiv platform for PCs running Microsoft's Windows operating system.
"Clearly, Apple's orientation is to deliver the best possible user experience from end-to-end by being closed. That's what they do and they are very, very good at it," Kim said, praising Apple's ability to produce products that are easy to use, despite the complex technology that lies underneath.
"We have a little motto inside Intel, 'Let Apple, be Apple'. We are happy to serve them," he said.
While Apple basks in the ongoing success of the iPod and iTunes, Intel urged Japanese electronics companies to make convergence a feature of more consumer-electronics products.
Praising Japanese consumer-electronics companies as "the most innovative", the former Samsung executive called on them to work with Intel to adopt open standards for convergence. By keeping standards open manufacturers help insure that users can move their content seamlessly between devices from different manufacturers, regardless of where the content came from, Kim said.
"At the end of the day, consumers want choice," he said.
The open standards that Intel is promoting are centered around its Viiv platform, a set of specifications for PCs designed to interact with consumer-electronics devices. For example, Viiv PCs can be connected to a television via a digital media adapter that lets users access and view PC content from their television.
Intel is also working with content makers to make available content that is designed for Viiv systems. Next year, Intel will introduce software for Viiv that allows users to securely access their home PC from a mobile computer using a VPN (virtual private network) connection, Kim said.
Whichever way the battle unfolds between open and proprietary systems, Intel is pleased to find itself in the middle of the looming battle. "We want to be the underlying foundation provider to both closed solutions and open solutions," Kim said.