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Intel planning portable media device

The chipmaker aims to boost consumer interest in PCs and its processors by developing components for a portable personal video player.

Intel aims to boost consumer interest in PCs and its processors by announcing components for a portable personal video player on Monday.

Intel's Emerging Platforms Lab will announce hardware and software that will help manufacturers design a device that can store and play digital media, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Intel won't manufacture the device, but the design is meant for a player to be the size of a paperback book that downloads content from a PC via a USB 2.0 port or through wireless 802.11b networking technology.

The device would include an Intel XScale processor, hard drive and liquid crystal display. The devices are expected to be available from manufacturers next year for about $400.

Intel spokesman Manny Vara confirmed that Intel is working on components for portable media devices, but declined to comment on the details.

Intel has previously developed devices that act as an extension of the PC, such as digital audio players and digital cameras, in the hopes of encouraging consumers to buy computers using Intel chips. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company even had a division that concentrated on developing consumer electronics devices but closed its late last year because it didn't meet the company's requirements for long-term growth.

Intel will allow manufacturers of the device to determine many of the exact specifications, such as hard drive capacity and screen and battery size. A common configuration will likely include a 20GB hard drive and a 4-inch passive matrix display.

Intel will announce customers for the components later this year. The software will include video, audio and JPEG codecs optimized for XScale, letting consumers to playback video clips, songs and pictures.

Intel aims to avoid the legal battles with entertainment companies that device makers, such as Sonicblue with its ReplayTV DVR, has faced by restricting the degree that content can be distributed. The player can only download digital audio and video content from a device owner's PC but consumers will not be able to share content with each other's devices.

"Making it so that consumers have to depend on the PC is a blessing and a curse," said Richard Doherty, analyst for research firm Envisioneering. "Not having peer-to-peer capabilities makes it a lot trickier for consumers to use."

Digital piracy has become such a hot-button topic that entertainment companies are pressing legislators for the ability to disable peer-to-peer networks and individual PCs.

Doherty noted that Intel may be too restrictive with digital rights management, which could limit the appeal for consumers.