April 6, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Intel's Viiv-talking pitch for PCs

Early adopters of PCs based on Intel's Viiv technology are having as much trouble understanding what's so different about their new computers as they are pronouncing "Viiv."

Viiv (rhymes with "hive") is the heart of Intel's vision for a digital home, with videos and music that seamlessly move between a PC and a television or a portable device. If a PC carries the Viiv brand, as Intel's marketing has put it, that PC was expected to be a sleek package at the center of the consumer digital media universe, downloading and sending movies to televisions around the home. The company formally unveiled its Viiv strategy at an Intel Developer Forum in 2005 and put some glitz on the pitch with a star-studded unveiling in January.

Unfortunately, the first PCs to arrive with Intel's Viiv brand over the last few weeks have been incremental improvements to existing Windows Media Center PCs, updated with dual-core processors, a sophisticated pause button and a colorful sticker. That won't change much until Intel releases a software update sometime in the second half of this year.

"No one wants to over-promise anything, but there is this momentum building," said Todd Titera, senior manager of desktop products for Gateway. "Would it be nice if everything was delivered in the first version? Yes, but maybe that's not reality."

For now, reality is that some consumers and reviewers are wondering what comes with Viiv PCs that can't be found elsewhere.

Intel's main promise for Viiv-branded products is that they will allow home entertainment buffs to stream downloaded video files from a PC's hard drive to a television in another room of the house, or move those files to a handheld personal media player. These capabilities won't be introduced until later this year, when Intel releases a software update that current Viiv PC owners can install to enable the new features, said Kari Skoog, an Intel spokeswoman. Intel hasn't determined how it plans to release this update, version 1.5, but promises it will be easy to implement, she said.

That software will also enable a technology called Intel Hub Connect, which is designed to make it easy to set up a home network with a Viiv PC, a Viiv-certified wireless networking router, and other consumer electronics gear like a Viiv-certified wireless TV or set-top box. DirecTV announced plans at CES to release a set-top box that works with Viiv devices.

"They certainly have a more ambitious vision with routers and digital media adapters and streaming media around your home," said David Galvin, HP's worldwide director of product marketing for desktops. "When these future capabilities become available, your PC can work with them."

Viiv has been a while in the making. It's the second major thrust of Intel's platform marketing strategy, following the Centrino brand for notebooks. Like Centrino, PC makers receive marketing support from Intel if they build Viiv PCs with certain specifications, such as an Intel dual-core processor, Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition, Intel's networking chips, support for high-definition audio and other components.

The idea is to create a brand that guarantees a level of PC performance needed to run sophisticated digital entertainment software, Skoog said. Intel is also working with content providers to develop applications that work well on large screens and with remote controls. Many early versions of software meant for digital entertainment are designed to receive information through a keyboard or mouse, and not a remote control as envisioned for the digital home PC.

Like it did with the Centrino brand, Intel also plans to certify that other devices like networking gear, portable players and televisions will work with Viiv PCs and content, helping take the pain out of setting up a home entertainment system that uses a PC at its center.

"What we're delivering is more than just hardware," Skoog said. "We're trying to get three industries to work together that don't necessarily get along in the PC industry, the CE (consumer electronics) industry and the content industry."

The Viiv PCs already shipping do have that noteworthy new feature--Intel's Quick Resume technology, which allows users to "turn off" a PC like they would a television. Actually, the PC doesn't fully turn off, but goes into a quiet suspend mode while the system is still active. On the content side, current Viiv PCs come with links to content from companies like MTV, ESPN and AOL highlighted in the "Online Spotlight" window of Windows Media Center's interface, although non-Viiv Windows Media Center PCs also have access to that content.

"We're not going to have brand traction within three months," said Don McDonald, vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home group, in a recent interview with CNET News.com. "Building a brand takes many years."

See more CNET content tagged:
Intel Viiv, Digital Home, digital media, pitch, Intel

17 comments

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OK, like i see it
its software to easily set up a local network and stream the
content to different media hubs. Looks like iTunes can do that
easily, what's the extra input from VIIV ?
Posted by Peter Bonte (316 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Viiv - Definition
Viiv - A fancy certification that intel made up to make normal computer functions sound new an exciting in order to make a profit: Not impressed.
Posted by (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Definition = DRM Lockdown
First any PC can do what Intel is claiming is the big reason to get a Viiv PC. Any computer can stream music and video to a TV. Viiv adds DRM so that content from online music and video stores cannot be streamed or converted unless used by an approved "Intel approved, Viiv", device.

And that means all these services like Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music, Vongo are all going to eventually require you have a Viiv PC or compatible device. XP, 2000 and '98 users will be out of luck.

Hopefully Windows Vista will be a complete and total failure at retail along with Viiv.
Posted by ballssalty (219 comments )
Link Flag
Agree...Nothing new here except branding.
Another brilliant idea from Intel.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Link Flag
VIIV
I think it's the roman numerals for 64... VI IV.. as in 64 bit processor.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
So true.
Since they either can't or won't do something to actually improve their processors, they scam consumers into buying a special DRM-enabled "Viiv" computer in order to playback digital media. Oddly something we already should be able to do.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Link Flag
Here we go again
It seems that almost every computer company has been trying to get into the home media thing. The problem is that most of these devices seem to be a step or two out of touch with what consumers actually want, and are therefore flops in the marketplace. Once word gets out about the limitations of these platforms, people will avoid them like the plague. These problems are probably more related to fear from content providers rather than these companies being unable to deliver the solutions that consumers are going to want.

The main thing that consumers are going to want to do is record hi-def television from any source (cable, OTA, satellite, etc.) and probably burn some of this content to whatever next-generation DVD format wins out (HD-DVD or Blu-ray) for archiving because some television moments are never released on DVD and hard drives would otherwise fill up fast with hi-def content. With analog television, consumers already have had this power with the VCR for more than 25 years. The content companies are going to want to stop this sort of thing or at least have some kind of control over it (hence the broadcast flag and HDCP). I am afraid that the best that a future regular-Joe consumer can hope for is a hopelessly crippled product.
Posted by eBob1 (188 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does anyone else see the irony?
We have a story about the lack of anything innovative in VIIV PC's, marked as a "high impact" story. Hmmm.....
Posted by ss_Whiplash (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not in the Hardware. It's the software.
I have decades old computers that can do really fancy stuff with multimedia: Old Mac IIfxs and Quadras, Amigas, even old PCs capable of full frame rate video.

The hardware is just one part of the equation, but software is what allows you to actually do fancy stuff with these machines.

Heck, I've even edited video on a Mac SE (edit list type processing).
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tech advancements slow so its reinvent time
Speed advancements have ceased or at least slowed a great deal.
So CPU companies have to reinvent the wheel. Or at least market
it like it`s something new. Since speed improvements have
slowed.
Their is really no good reason to keep replacing your PC every
two years. That`s bad news for Intel,Dell, Hp and AMD. So they
had to create another upgrade that would encourage the
comsumer to keep buying. With Vista at least 8 months away,
and who knows if that is written in stone! It remains to be seen if
comsumers which buy into the multi media PC. I personally
don`t need another thing to add on my multi media shelf.
Posted by jesmac418 (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More Anti-Trust Evidence for AMD
Intel's at it again. They've decided to create a "magical" brand that does something no one elses systems are able to do so that they can push out competition. It doesn't imporve anything, and it's not a significant hardware change, or even a significant software change, it's a sticker, and some code to prevent people from using content on other non-intel pcs. I remember when Intel introduced MMX technology (a set of instructions programers rarely used in games) and then made software companies roll out "MMX" only products. I know what you're thinking, but those programs did use the MMX insturctions, and right you are! But when Cyrix and AMD introduced their MMX CPU's the same software wouldn't install, why? Intel had made the software companies use installers that would only work if they saw "Intel and MMX" not just MMX.

They tried this again with the first generation Centrino Laptops, requiring you to use only Intel Centrino branded hardware (same hardware, new sticker) with their laptops or all centrino features were disabled. I'm not talking about Centrino CPU's, but add on devices such as network cards, wireless cards, etc.

This is the same strategy. Intel is already pushing online content providers to only let content play on ViiV PC's. That way consumers who want access to that content will be more likely to buy ViiV devices and PC's, effectively pushing competeting companies out of the market.

So what's so bad about that? It's a good tactic and it's exactly what landed MS in court. But wait.. it's new content right? It's not like it was avilable to everyone and now it's only ViiV! Wrong. Take a look at the new marketing with NBC. Exclusive video of Studio 60 and Heroes... wait.. last week those were avialable to everyone, but now future versions are only for ViiV users!

Time for Intel to get smacked back in line, and stop inventing new "standards" that are nothing more than software lockouts to stop the competition. And you thought MS was bad...
Posted by Swalters1 (11 comments )
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