Windows Middle East electronic edition 13th September 2005

At Intel’s most recent techie get-together (a.k.a. its Developer Forum), the firm talked up its forthcoming entertainment PC platform. But whilst ‘Viiv’ (which rhymes with ‘five’, thus the inspired headline above) might lodge in the brain for its pure brand name uniqueness, will it really prove a big hit with digital home users?

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By  Matthew Wade Published  September 12, 2005

Viiv Alive?|~||~||~|Intel’s Centrino ‘suite’ of technologies has been a big branding success, period. You rarely see a laptop these days that doesn’t feature a little red and blue Centrino sticker, and when you do you know therefore that it’s packed full of wireless trickery (which makes logging onto any nearby wireless networks a doddle) and its battery should last a fair while. In terms of the so-called ‘digital home’ concept however, there’s currently no such recognisable solution – or brand - around. Many hardware and software vendors have come up with possible digital media centers and hubs, from Acer and BenQ to Mr Gates and co., but to date no company has displayed the mettle to plough really huge resources into pushing its own solution as the be all and end all of our future digital home lives. As a result of this, no category killing solution has stuck. That’s not stopping Intel from having another bash with Viiv though (check out the news story here). But what this ‘suite of technologies’ seems to represent is just a slightly more entertainment friendly form of the PC, available in the usual ‘range’ of form factors. Thus the age (or year) old question returns: do users really want a PC in their living rooms? Firstly, how is Viiv actually different from a standard desktop PC set-up? Well it will feature a dual-core CPU (so, it’s high-end), a chipset of course, and a (wired) network controller (note: wired, not wireless). Plus it will only work with Microsoft’s as-yet-unloved Windows Media Center OS, and you’ll be able to control Viiv PCs from the comfort of your couch using a wireless remote control. Oh, and it’ll have support for 5.1 surround sound. Won over so far? Let’s delve deeper. Much of the reason firms like Asus and BenQ have gone to town developing smooth looking prototype digital hubs is because they reckon – quite rightly you may think – that no-one wants a bulky standard PC in their living room, whether next to or under their TV. The VHS player was pretty shoebox-ish, but recently slimline DVD players have become much easier on the eye. Hurrah to that. So who wants to crank up dimensions to PC size again? The key issue here then, which doesn’t do much to differentiate Viiv from standard PC set-ups, is that Viiv systems will be available in various form factors (that’s ‘shapes and sizes’ to the uneducated). You can kind of understand where Intel’s coming from in a way, in that it has tried to push super slim form factors in the past and has hardly been deafened by the ear-splitting cries of industry support. Therefore, Intel boffins appear to have assumed that it is performance and functionality - rather than shape and looks -that are key to wowing living room dwellers. Maybe. By offering various form factors though, how will end users be able to differentiate Viiv PCs from standard desktops? That’s one key question. Some online techie pundits such as those at The Register, reckon Intel could boost its home PC market share by really defining one, standard (preferably attractive) PC form factor for Viiv systems, rather than branding various form factors Viiv and risking this simply becoming the default name for the standard PC. Nice suggestion. Whether Intel will plough ahead with Viiv in its current (and various) forms then remains to be seen. And of course, much could change as we’ve only really heard some skimpy initial details so far. But I suspect that the head-to-head battle between IT and consumer electronics’ for our living rooms is still just beginning. ||**||

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