Viiv Is Coming

Using a personal computer as an audio component has certainly gained ground with gearheads in the last several years, and many new products, such as media servers, blur the line between a traditional component and a PC. At the same time, the general public is still resisting the idea of booting up their stereos or TVs.

The computer industry, however, would like to find a foothold in everyone's living room, and Intel has just announced a new set of media technologies and standards aimed at lending a hand: Viiv (sounds like "five" and I'll bet someone got at least $30k to come up with it). Viiv is described as a suite of Intel technologies, including a dual-core processor, chipset, platform software, and wired networking capabilities, and it should start appearing in products early next year.

Intel's Don MacDonald explains, "Intel Viiv technology is our first platform designed from the ground up for the digital home, where consumers are passionate about the idea of accessing their content anytime, anywhere in their home on a number of devices. Following the success of Intel Centrino mobile technology, we are applying a similar branding strategy to our new digital home platform composed of Intel's latest PC technologies."

According to the company, consumers will be able to get Viiv technology–based systems in a variety of form factors including traditional CE designs, such as stereo components or DVD players, and desktop or tower PC designs. Intel says that all PCs based on Viiv technology will ship with remote control, the Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition operating system, and media software "that lets consumers interact with their PC in the same way they operate a TV."

Intel says it has addressed the instant power on/off issue with PC-based A/V components with a new platform feature called "Quick Resume Technology" that takes over once the product is initially booted. No comment from the company on how it is going to handle the other primary complaint about media PCs: fan noise.

The platform will be optimized for downloading, storing, and playing media files, and setting up A/V home networks based on an integrated media server "engine" that, the company says, "can reformat various digital content files so they can be used on a selection of devices." Intel adds that Viiv technology–based PCs will also ship with 5.1 surround sound, with optional support for up to 7.1.

The company stresses that it has worked with the PC, CE, and content industries to set interoperability specifications, "so that consumers can easily move a variety of online media from room to room and between various devices in the home network." There's only one catch: Those devices must be "verified by Intel to work with Intel Viiv technology–based systems."