Intel shows off Mac Mini-like concept PC

At conference, chipmaker tries to spur creativity among computer makers, but company won't likely make such a device. Photos: Intel's own mini PC

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Intel on Wednesday showed off its living room PC of the future--and it looks a lot like the Mac Mini.

As part of a speech at the Intel Developer Forum here, Vice President Don MacDonald demonstrated several concept PCs, including the Sleek Concept Entertainment PC--a square, metallic-colored device that was immediately reminiscent of the desktop computer Apple Computer introduced earlier this year.

Intel mini PC gallery

It's unlikely that Intel itself would build such a device. The chipmaker often uses its twice-yearly developer events to try to spur creativity among computer makers. Past efforts have seen PCs twisted into all sorts of shapes and even embedded in an Ottoman foot rest.

An Apple representative declined to comment on Intel's concept PC.

Thus far, the concept PC is just a piece of plastic, literally, although its design showed a clock display and optical drive in front, with ports such as USB, optical audio and FireWire in the back.

Most design efforts from computer makers to date have been focused on making entertainment-oriented PCs that look less like PCs and more like the kinds of electronics people have in the living room, such as stereos or DVD players. Gateway put out such a PC in the past, and HP has a current model, as do several niche PC makers.

The style push has led to smaller, less bulky desktops. In the relatively near future, Japanese desktop makers will likely begin to adopt notebook chips to craft sleek desktops, said Mooly Eden, a vice president in Intel's Mobility Group.

Some notebook makers have adopted Intel concepts, such as VoIP and cellular handsets that pop out of a bay in a notebook, and external second screens in laptops, Eden added.

Future add-ons for notebooks include putting transducers in the screen so that it can act as a loudspeaker, Eden added.

At the same time that Intel is looking to push computermakers on the design front, it is also working to improve the quality of such devices. It is also working to ensure that content can be secured to the satisfaction of Hollywood studios, which will decide whether or not to make their movies available on such machines.

MacDonald brought Microsoft eHome executive Joe Belfiore on stage to talk about collaborations between the two companies. He spoke about an effort to make sure Microsoft's digital-rights management technology is compatible with Intel's push for standards to enable content to move among home devices easily while still being protected from widespread distribution.

A Disney executive also spoke about the potential for bringing its Moviebeam service to PCs. The service, which offers more than 100 movies on demand, currently works only with set-top boxes.

Apple, for its part, has not played up the Mac Mini as specifically designed for the living room, although some enthusiasts have envisioned such a future.

Also at the developer event on Wednesday, Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney touted a number of the company's mobile computer and cell phone chip efforts.

He showed off the next generation of Intel's Centrino mobile-technology effort, code-named Napa. The company showed off its first 65-nanometer, dual-core mobile chip, code-named Yonah, as well as a future chipset and updated Wi-Fi chips.

Maloney said that Intel plans to include several new technologies with Yonah, including improved heat management techniques and a Digital Media Boost function that Intel said will aid in content creation.

Intel also talked about its plans for Hermon--its latest effort to crack the cell phone market. The company said that later this year it will have one-chip and two-chip designs that include built-in graphics and models optimized for both high performance as well as low power use.

CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.