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Viiv's 3 metre user interface

Will a badge from Intel be enough to move your PC to the lounge or will you refuse to jump on the Viiv marketing bandwagon?

Pam Carroll

Today's headline comes courtesy of Don McDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Intel's Digital Home Group who was in the country spruiking at the Australian launch of it's strangely named Viiv platform.

Although I feel compelled to make a metric conversion, he was actually on about changing a 2-foot PC user interface -- sitting at a desk with a monitor, keyboard and mouse -- to a 10-foot user interface. By 10-foot, he means using a PC to drive your home theatre and all types of digital content while sitting on your sofa using a remote control and a TV screen.

Intel's vision is that Viiv will be the catalyst for changing the way we interact with all our burgeoning digital content, and soon we'll be wirelessly streaming movies, music and photos to TVs in every room of our house. Actually, I'm underplaying this a bit. Let me share some direct quotes to give you a better flavour of the Intel briefing:

  • We're creating a "new normal" (they like this one so much it was the headline of the press release)

  • "Bringing digital home" to change "how content and consumers meet"
  • "Entertainment your way"
  • It's a "game changing moment"

This last one came from Philip Cronin, General Manager of Intel Australia who also refashioned Bruce Gyngell's first words on Australian television, "Good evening and welcome to television" to "Good morning and welcome to Viiv". Cronin hopes he's around in 50 years as he reckons Viiv's impact will be as significant in the next 50 years as TV's has been in the past 50.

Wow. I should mention now that Viiv is a platform marketing initiative from Intel. It's a badge that a PC has to show that it incorporates certain hardware components that Intel has certified as being fully capable of performing typical media centre tasks. Even Don McDonald admitted that it's essentially "3 chips and a million lines of software code".

To break with the cynical bent, it's really the software capabilities that make the whole Viiv thing a somewhat interesting proposition. It wasn't explained in any detail, but during the presentation yesterday, an Intel rep set up a wireless network in roughly six minutes, using only a remote control and a screen menu. Home wireless networks, key to the whole Viiv concept, currently remain in the 'too hard' basket for all but the tech savvy.

If we really can simply connect all our digital devices (and Intel's talking about Viiv-ing everything from phones and PDAs, to TVs, DVRs and audio systems as well as PCs) and push all kinds of content around the home, then I'll be the first to say "bring it on". It's just that yesterday's Intel briefing was eerily reministent of Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition launch 18 months ago (the base operating system for Viiv machines, by the way). There was a big song-and-dance at the time, and then … nothing. The revolution that was supposed to change our lounge rooms then has never materialised, and the Media Center devices we've seen come on to the market (at least in Australia) have been few and far between.

Intel certainly has the marketing muscle to make Viiv take off -- think the "Centrino-fication" of Wi-Fi notebooks. The company is also rounding up content partners and addressing DRM issues as our Viiv feature explains. Timing too, is working in their favour, as broadband penetration and the proliferation of digital content is finally reaching a critical mass.

But the Viiv journey is only beginning. Viiv-certified digital media adaptors as well as home theatre components are a ways off. Do you think Intel is really going to "change the game"? Will we live in "technology ecosystems" with every device easily connected, sharing and caring? Let us know what you think by clicking Have your say below!

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