March 3, 2005 5:14 PM PST

Intel rethinking the living room PC

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel is going to give the Entertainment PC a makeover.

The lukewarm response for the EPC--a living room computer that functions as a DVD player, a digital-video recorder and a media storage vault that sort of looks like a VCR--is prompting the company to rethink the design and function of the devices, said Don MacDonald, general manager of Intel's home product group.

"I think there is an in-built inertia against anything called a PC in the living room."
--Don MacDonald
Intel home product group

Future living room units will be smaller, more stylish and likely less costly, he said. They could possibly even be integrated with movie delivery or other content services. Equally important: The fact that the box is a PC will be heavily de-emphasized.

"I'm not sure I want to call it an entertainment PC," MacDonald said during an interview at the Intel Developer Forum. "I think there is an in-built inertia against anything called a PC in the living room."

An early example of Intel's new direction is a rectangular prototype computer shown off at the conference that resembles Apple Computer's Mac Mini.

The EPC box was designed to be the sort of object someone wouldn't be hesitant to put in the living room or next to a plasma TV, MacDonald said. Designers achieved the relatively small size of the box, in part, by building the prototype around the upcoming Yonah notebook processors rather than a conventional desktop chip. Typically, desktop chips consume more energy and require fans and heat sinks.

At the same time, the unit is designed to sell in the $600 range, to appeal to a mass audience. To keep the price low, it runs on desktop memory rather than notebook memory, which slashes about $20 off of the materials bill. It can also accommodate a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive rather than the more expensive notebook drives.

While Intel will not sell this PC, the design will become a starting point for discussions with computer makers on whether--or how--commercial versions of the box can sell.

The Entertainment PC will also likely be paired with services such as video-on-demand. A large studio, in fact, is working with Intel to create a content service which, optimistically, could go live within a year.

Although cable operators now mostly deliver content through set-top boxes, there's no reason a PC couldn't perform the same job. The advent of new types of content delivery services, along with high-definition TV, will likely spark a round of upgrades for the living room box, and that will open the door to a new generation of PCs, MacDonald theorized.

Culturally, though, Intel still has to get beyond the stigma of taking computers out of the den, even though they are, of course, already there.

"People don't want a PC in their living room," MacDonald said. "I'll ask my son, 'How many PCs are there in the living room?' He'll say 'none.' But in reality, there are two: the Xbox and the TiVo."


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I'm glad to see that the entertainment pc isn't doing so good. It shows that people just DO NOT want Microsoft to take just that much more control of their lives. I for one would never want Windows XP to be in control of my tv or radio or dvd player or anything of this sort. The whole idea of the entertainment pc is a sham to start with. If I realy wanted a computer for these kinds of things, I would be soooo better off just building it myself.

With MS and Apple getting so close to the RIAA and MPAA, these people seem to want to completely control anything and everything I can consume with my eyes and my ears.

These people will never get my money or my endorcement.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
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PC's in the lounge
Intel's view of the consumers opinion of the PC is some what different to my reality. Both the PC's in our home are run from the lounge room as this allows for a couple of small but significant things to occur. The first is that regardless of what the PC is being used for by my wife or I, we are in the same area of the house as the children thereby allowing us to be with the rest of the family and not isolated from them. The second is the very one that many groups advocate, as parents we can keep an eye on our children's use of and access to the net. This allows us to ensure they aren't where they shouldn't be, protect them from potential threats and teach them responcible use.

Granted, our PC's arent set up as the media machines the article is referring to, but its the very fact that they are as much part of the lounge room furniture as the couch is that I am pointing out.
Posted by j3st3r (70 comments )
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Lump them in the pile with "interactive TV"
There are a few ideas that come and go all the time which never go anyplace.

Somebody declares interactive TV is "just about to happen" every five years. The media gets into a tizzy, a dozen companies declare their intent to support and be on the cutting-edge of it, and one year later the idea is dead again. And this idea has been coming and going since TV began.

Video Phones are another one of these ideas. And even then, how many people want to actually be seen by telemarketing companies and anybody else.

People such as Bill Gates, Gateway's, and other CEOs would have us believe TVs and PCs are "just about" to merge, is yet another one of these ideas that has not, and won't come to fruition.

Nobody has ever asked for their PC and TV to merge. Its an idea CEOs and such fall in love with and never can explain the logic for.

PCs will never become "front room" toys. DVRs, Media hubs, and other devices, which might be networked to a PC in another room will become common-place. However in the end, people like their TVs as dumb as toasters.

I hope this sad attempt by HP and others to find some "new" use for PCs will now come to an end.

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Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
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Methinks they skipped a step.
I don't think the majority of the consuming population suffers from "Gatesaphobia" but often they buy based on their perception of the technology. The term "computer" or "PC" carries some baggage with it from Hollywood portrayals as threatening, volaltile, world-conquering beastly machines that no one understands.

So lose the term "PC". Make it look like something we're familiar with, like a "Boombox". In fact, call it a boombox, hide a souped-up sound card inside along with a CD player, a 40 or 80GB hard drive, and some hard-coded MP3 music management software. Then just casually mention that it will "record" your CDs without a cassette tape. Also mention that you can probably record your entire music library into it.

But DON'T DARE call it a "computer" or you'll frighten somepeople into a coma.

If you can hold the price under $300, I will crawl on my hands and knees, if necessary, to buy one.
Later on you can talk about entertainment PCs.
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
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Fake Mock-Up Bigger Than iMac
If you're going to hold up an imaginary device, why not make the fake mockup smaller than an imac and just say it'll be under $400? All they are doing is helping sell imacs (as people have already manage to velcro it to a back of a 60" Sony Wega set).

Intel is more clueless than Microsoft about selling things to actual consumers in the 21st century ... and no, the XBox doesn't really count - when you spend $335 to sell a $149 item and you're 55 million behind the PS2 - of course, you have to come up with a new machine without a HDD so people don't buy it to use as a Linux box.

You just have to look at Intel's PC designs when Apple introduced the original imac to see what camel the PC design teams actually came up with. Intel makes fine products, you just don't ask PG&#38;E to design a car.
Posted by jbelkin (167 comments )
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