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AMD debuts its Live media-center products

Advanced Micro Devices' Live PC and Live Entertainment Suite among products challenging Intel in digital entertainment arena.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Advanced Micro Devices unveiled its AMD Live PC and AMD Live Entertainment Suite on Wednesday, as the chipmaker goes head-to-head with archrival Intel in the digital entertainment arena.

AMD, with the aid of other companies, is aiming to create a media-center PC that will let people organize, distribute and share their content. The chipmaker is also launching AMD Live Entertainment Suite, a suite of applications and services meant to assist people in designing and operating digital entertainment systems.

AMD's announcement comes less than a year after Intel announced its Viiv digital entertainment brand.

Intel characterized AMD's Live offering as a "me too" approach.

"Their's is a copycat strategy, right down to the rhyming brand name," said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman.

AMD, however, contends its digital entertainment technology takes an approach that is different from that of its rival. The company offered a sneak peek at its Live technology during the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"We have guidelines for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), but don't require them to use certain component makers or chipset makers. This allows the OEMs to differentiate their PCs," said Teresa de Onis, AMD desktop brand manager. "The OEMs also don't have to buy a software stack form us."

Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technology, said PC makers may find the flexibility of choosing components more attractive with AMD Live, but also must weigh that against the marketing dollars they may receive with Intel's Viiv.

"There is not a compelling price difference between (AMD and Intel) for the desktop, so the OEMs will look at not only the component prices, but also the relationship with partners and...the one that gives them the most profitable offering," Kay said.

AMD Live technology, which uses the chipmaker's Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor, will come loaded onto PCs from Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Alienware and Tsinghua Tongfang. HP is expected to immediately begin offering AMD Live PCs, while the others are expected to introduce their systems in June and July. AMD's agreements with the PC makers are not exclusive.

The Live Entertainment Suite will offer four main features. One, called AMD Live On Demand, is designed to offer a service, via Orb Networks, to stream live or prerecorded television shows, photos, music and movies to devices connected to the Internet. The suite will also include an application tool that aims to compress recorded TV shows, allowing more shows to be stored on a PC. It will also offer 25GB of free storage via AMD's Live Media Vault and a service to set up and manage a home network.

"We're focused on the day-to-day problems," de Onis said. "Intel is offering premium content and services, but we're offering applications and services to help users solve problems like streaming to a notebook."

AMD is planning to expand its Live product line later in the year with the capability to show Internet content on a user's television screen, via its Live PC and a set-top box. AMD will begin demonstrating its technology reference designs next week with set-top manufacturers.

"We don't believe, like Intel, that most people will put a PC in their living room. We believe in working with the existing ecosystem to enhance TV," de Onis said.

Intel believes consumers' homes will go digital, with bits and bytes beamed to TVs, notebooks, cell phones and other devices, Kircos said.

The chip giant, as a result, is working with content providers to design a fluid exchange of entertainment and information from one device to another. "Hopefully, any company would see working with content providers is a benefit," Kircos said.

The Viiv PC system--with its dual-core processor, chipset and network controller--became available earlier this year. Some of the first units to initially arrive offered incremental improvements over existing Windows Media Center PCs. But a Viiv software upgrade is scheduled for the second half of the year that will expand the system's capabilities, Kircos said.

"Viiv has been widely accepted," he added. "Viiv sales in the first three months exceeded Centrino in its first three months of sales back in 2003."

Correction: This story misstated the timeframe that Intel branded Viiv systems began to ship. Viiv PC systems have been available since January.