CES: Intel adds DirectTV, AOL and NBC to Viiv strategy

Home entertainment PCs to get TV shows and movies from major studios and network operators

As expected, Intel Corp. unveiled the two newest planks of its strategy for consumer PCs today at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show. The company also announced partnerships with content providers -- including The DirectTV Group Inc., America Online Inc. and General Electric Co.'s NBC television network -- that will let Viiv users watch content on their new systems.

Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini used his afternoon keynote slot at CES to formally unveil notebooks based on the Centrino Duo, formerly known as Napa, and Viiv home entertainment PCs. Intel has been talking about its latest notebook technology for over a year, and Viiv made its debut appearance at the Fall Intel Developer Forum last August.

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All that was left to announce was the names of the chips that make up the Centrino Duo package. Yonah, the former code name for Intel's first dual-core version of the Pentium M processor, is now known as Core Duo. This chip will provide the basis for all of Intel's processors starting later this year, when the company introduces new chips based on the low-speed but high-performance design principles used to create the Pentium M.

"The Core Duo is our first new premium brand since Pentium," Otellini said. It will be used in desktops, notebooks and eventually handheld devices, he said. As with the earlier versions of Centrino, the Centrino Duo package will feature a Core Duo, a mobile optimized chip set and upgraded wireless.

As would be expected, just about every major PC vendor, including Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Lenovo Group Ltd., Gateway Inc., Sony Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and a host of others plan to have Centrino Duo notebooks available soon.

In another nod to the Centrino strategy, PC makers will be able to take advantage of Intel marketing efforts behind the Viiv brand if they purchase a package of Intel silicon. This includes a dual-core processor, chip set and networking chip, as well as software that allows users to share content within their home networks.

But what had been missing from the Viiv hype was the presence of major content providers on the level of satellite television provider DirectTV and NBC. Intel and DirectTV plan to develop a set-top box based on Viiv technology that can receive content from DirectTV's satellites sometime in 2006, said Chase Carey, president and CEO of DirectTV, who joined Otellini on stage along with Jonathan Miller, chairman and CEO of AOL. AOL's thousands of music videos, vintage television shows and sports highlights will also be available to users who buy Viiv PCs, he said.

NBC plans to make video clips of the upcoming Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, available to Viiv users through an NBC Web site, said Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC's Universal Television Group, in a video shown during Otellini's speech.

The partners will make their content available through an interface available on the startup screen of the Viiv PC, jointly developed by Intel and Microsoft Corp., said Don McDonald, vice president and general manager of Intel's digital home group.

Intel's vision of the digital home has taken several twists and turns since Otellini first unveiled the concept of the entertainment PC at the 2004 CES. But the concept is finally coming together with powerful new chips and alliances with global content companies, he said.

"A test of good technology is once you use it, you can't go back," Otellini said. Viiv PCs will start to appear on store shelves and Web sites over the next few days.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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