CES: AMD goes live with digital home strategy

It plans to brand AMD-based PCs aimed at home media networking

Articulating its own vision of the digital home days before its major rival unveils a similar marketing initiative, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. today is announcing plans to brand AMD-based PCs designed specifically for home media networking.

AMD will announce an alliance with set-top box chip maker STMicroelectronics NV and unveil the AMD Live! brand at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, said Hal Speed, marketing architect at AMD. The companies want to make it easier for consumers to blend content available over cable and satellite broadcast networks with content delivered over the Internet to PCs, he said.

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Over 100,000 people are in Las Vegas this week for the CES. Vendors at the show have slightly different versions of what makes up a digital home and what type of products are best used to create that home. PC vendors envision a home media network with the PC at the center of multiple displays and networking devices, while other consumer electronics vendors have embraced gaming consoles, smart televisions and any number of other configurations.

Consumers seem eager to get on board -- Media Center PCs and high-definition televisions are finally starting to ship in larger volumes this year. But connecting these devices is not easy -- even for tech-savvy users. AMD's idea is to start small; it's working on developing PCs that work closely with set-top boxes so consumers can connect their PCs and their televisions, Speed said.

Around the middle of this year, PCs will start to appear with AMD's Live brand, Speed said. That label will mean those PCs are powerful enough to handle multimedia applications and are capable of providing the so-called "10-foot experience," he said. One common strategy among various digital home-inclined PC vendors is allowing home users to work with their PCs from across a room, rather than the common practice of sitting about two feet away from the screen at a desk.

AMD's announcement comes as its major rival, Intel Corp., prepares to unveil its own digital home branding strategy at CES. Intel CEO Paul Otellini is expected tomorrow to introduce Viiv PCs, the second major brand to emerge from Intel's new "platform" marketing strategy.

Intel doesn't just want to make processors anymore, it wants to provide all the silicon and embedded software needed to run a modern PC. The first iteration of this strategy, its Centrino mobile technology, has been so successful Intel plans to try again with Viiv.

As they can with Centrino, Intel's PC partners will be able to take advantage of the marketing and advertising resources Intel plans to put behind the Viiv brand as long as they include an assortment of Intel components in their PCs. Those include a dual-core Intel processor, Intel chip sets designed specifically for home media applications and Intel networking chips.

Viiv will be a formidable foe for AMD's Live! brand, since Intel's marketing budget far exceeds AMD's. But AMD thinks it can gain traction with the brand by emphasizing the freedom vendors have to choose components for their PCs and by undertaking a collaborative approach with the consumer electronics industry, Speed said.

"We're not trying to cannibalize the [consumer electronics] industry. We want them to tap into the PC. No single company can do this themselves," Speed said.

AMD is working with several PC companies on AMD Live! PCs, but Speed declined to specify which companies plan to launch PCs with the brand.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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