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Intel looks beyond entertainment with Viiv

Platform to expand with the digital home

For the moment, Intel's Viiv platform is all about digital entertainment, but that might not always be the case.

Future versions of the chip package could be expanded to address areas such as communications, digital health and home automation, said Merlin Kister, Intel director of consumer PC marketing, at Taipei's Computex trade show today.

"Viiv is our brand for the digital home. Today the focus is digital media, but as the digital home expands to include other things, so our platform will expand with it," he said.

Viiv (which rhymes with five) includes a dual-core processor, a networking chip, audio and video components, and software for things such as controlling a PC remotely and instant on/off. It's supposed to turn a PC into a type of home entertainment centre, making it easier to download music and video and share it around the home.

As with the Centrino wireless package, PC makers who include Intel's required list of components and software can slap the Viiv brand on their PCs. Pretty much all the components are from Intel, although Viiv also requires Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition OS (operating system). The chip maker also partnered with providers such as NBC to make sure their content plays well on the systems.

Now that processor clock speeds are less relevant – the race to 1GHz ended long ago – the chip packages provide a new way for Intel to market its products to consumers. AMD will soon be in the game too, with PCs based on its AMD Live entertainment platform due this month.

The expansion into new areas is likely to focus more on new software and service partnerships than on adding new components, although other chips could be added.

Intel could partner with a healthcare provider so that users can attach a blood pressure monitor to their PC and send the results to the provider over the web, Kister said.

For communications, the company could cut deals with VoIP (voice over IP) providers such as Skype and include software that makes it easier to make calls on the internet.

Kister would not say when Intel plans to extend Viiv beyond entertainment. But before that, the company will improve the existing Viiv software and hardware. First will come a software upgrade for Viiv, due later this year, which will allow people to stream audio and video to other devices around the home. Intel will also upgrade the hardware, with a faster Core 2 Duo processor due next month, and a chipset called Broadwater, released today, for higher-definition audio and video.

Kister declined to comment on any plans to offer Viiv for Apple computers, which now run on Intel processors, although such a move is technically not difficult, he said. None of the Linux distributions have sufficient multimedia capabilities to be a part of Viiv yet, he said.

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