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Keep the digital home simple

Intel wants key to your home

Intel has continued to expound its vision for the digital calling for a simple consumer experience backed up by high-quality audio and video content.

In a keynote address at the Spring Intel Developer Forum, Intel vice president and general manager Louis Burns announced a partnership with Dolby Laboratories to create an audio licensing program and a logo for PCs that use Intel High Definition Audio, the official name of its Azalia audio technology.

Intel High Definition Audio uses the Dolby 7.1 standard to provide better sound quality for PCs. The Integrated Audio Codec Licensing program will help vendors to develop audio products that work with PCs equipped with Intel High Definition Audio, according to Burns.

Dolby will stamp its logo on PCs that use its sound technology, to help consumers decide what level of audio technology they want and can afford, Dolby announced in a release.

Burns also announced that Intel and Movielink LLC have signed an agreement to develop technologies such as wireless digital media adapters that will protect commercial content while allowing consumers to share it around their homes.

While entertainment dominates most discussions of the digital home, consumers want other applications too, according to Burns. He demonstrated technologies that could help students study and relatives stay in touch via the internet.

Examples included a girl who was able to have a question answered through a live videoconference with a science expert, and a college student who was able to call his family and send video emails through his laptop to his parents' digital television.

Burns promised that future digital consumer products would be simple to install and offer more connections to the rest of the home.

"These things have to be dirt simple. They have to work right out of the box," Burns said.

Intel also showed off some of its own forthcoming technologies for digital home products. The Grantsdale chipset is expected to appear in the second quarter with built-in support for DDR2 (double data rate) memory, the PCI Express interconnect standard and a wireless access point.

PCI Express should dramatically improve the performance of both discrete graphics cards from Nvidia and ATI as well as Intel's own integrated graphics products, according to Burns. The standard allows data to flow more quickly between the CPU (central processing unit) and other PC components, such as its I/O ports or graphics chips.

The company also showed two new reference designs for "entertainment PCs," which were first discussed by Intel at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and are designed for what Intel calls "the 10-foot experience." Rather than viewing content from their PC in the study, consumers will want to view it on a large display while sitting on their couches in the living room.

One type of entertainment PC will let them operate their system via remote control from a distance, and share content among several devices in the home, according to Burns.

The reference design for that system, known as Kessler, will be available later this year with a Prescott Pentium 4 processor and the Grantsdale chipset. A design called Sandow, slated for 2005, will be able to power-on immediately and include a personal video recorder that supports high-definition television.

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