AMD: Vista only a tiny step to convergence

PCs have a way to go, despite advances in hardware and software aimed to bring PC technology into the living room.

SEATTLE--Windows Vista is a step in the right direction, but major obstacles remain before PC technology can make it big in the living room, a senior Advanced Micro Devices researcher said Tuesday.

Advances in Windows Vista, such as increased support for high-definition video and new DVD standards, help PC technology in its battle for consumer living rooms, Rod Fleck, a fellow with AMD said in a presentation at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here. But a new operating system doesn't solve the broader industry issues.

"What I would love is fewer standards and more people that adopt the few that we take," he said. Windows Vista is the successor to Windows XP, slated to be broadly available in January. Certain editions of the new Microsoft operating system will include an update to capabilities found in today's Windows XP Media Center Edition.

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The PC industry, with players such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Intel and AMD, has tried to move into the living room for years, without much success. A new operating system alone won't solve the challenges, Fleck said, apologizing if he was upsetting Microsoft with his stance.

Aside from the lack of generally accepted standards to make devices work together, the industry faces a number of hurdles, he said. These include unreliable home networking technology, software that's too bulky and hardware that is too expensive, too noisy and generates too much heat, Fleck said.

"PCs are too big, they look ugly, they generate too much heat, they don't fit into a consumer electronics environment," he said. "We've got to bring the cost down and need smaller designs. If you're going to put this in your bedroom, you really don't want to hear it."

Ultimately, consumers want their technology to work together and they want to have a good experience, Fleck said. So he called on the consumer electronics and the technology industries to come together and solve the challenge. Ultimately, this should lead to a connected home where various devices interconnect over a quality home network.

Fleck struck a chord with Mike Dellisanti, a researcher at Bose who is attending WinHEC. "It's a tough time for us as well, we're all in the same boat," he said. Bose had to invent its own streaming audio technology to deliver sound throughout a house, because of a lack of standards when it did so, he said.

All a consumer really wants, Dellisanti said, is for products to work. Today, there is no telling if a DVD, when it is inserted in a player, will actually work, for example. "It should be a simple thing."

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