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Intel bringing life to channel surfers with Viiv

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If you're a producer for a third-rate variety television show, you're not going to like PCs with Intel Corp.'s Viiv logo, according to the head of the company's digital home group.

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"The victim of all this Viiv stuff is poor content," said Don McDonald, vice president and general manager in charge of Intel's products for the home. The company formally unveiled Viiv (rhymes with five) Thursday at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Viiv is a package consisting of a dual-core processor, a chipset, and a networking chip. It's modeled on Intel's Centrino technology, which similarly grouped silicon for notebook PCs and changed the way Intel marketed its products. Intel has been talking about the technology for several months, but disclosed content partners and an agreement with The DirectTV Group Inc. to build PCs and set-top boxes for living rooms in the U.S.

Intel and DirectTV's set-top box will be able to take the signal from DirectTV's satellites and get movies, sports, and even tacky reality shows directly onto a device that can stream that content to other displays around the home. Other PCs built for entertainment can do this but users need to connect their set-top boxes to their home networks.

That's pretty difficult even for the average home user, and it hasn't been helped by the reluctance of the cable and satellite industry to open their devices to networks, McDonald said. But with a DirectTV Viiv PC, consumers will be able to watch a wider variety of video content available over the Internet on their living room televisions, in addition to whatever they already get from the satellite, he said.

"I don't care how it was broadcast. All I know is that I want Man United and I get it," McDonald said. He can currently get select games of his favorite soccer team in the U.K.'s Premiere League, but he can't get them all through DirectTV's service. New competitors with Internet services might give him the opportunity to purchase just Manchester United's games, rather than paying for all the league's games or the select few currently available.

The company's deals with America Online Inc. and NBC for video content, also announced Thursday, are not totally exclusive to the Viiv brand but some features will be available only on branded PCs, McDonald said. For example, Viiv users will be able to download high-definition clips of the 2006 Winter Olympics broadcast by NBC, but users of other PCs will have to make do with regular definition clips, he said. Left unsaid was how NBC's site would distinguish between Viiv PCs and non-Viiv PCs.

But downloading video and streaming it to a television will be a much easier experience on a Viiv PC with a dual-core processor and Intel's chipset technology, McDonald said. "If people want to do this, the pain and suffering they'd have on a non-Viiv PC is our biggest advertisement for going out and getting this," he said.

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