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Intel looks to gadgets to boost PC demand

The company, best known for its Pentium PC processors, launches a trio of PC-related consumer devices to pump up PC demand.

Intel wants you in pictures.

The company, best known for its Pentium PC processors, this week launched a trio of PC-related consumer devices intended to further its strategy of using gadgets to push PC demand.

The new products from Intel's Connected Products Division include an updated Intel Pocket Digital PC Camera, a new MP3 player dubbed Personal Audio Player 3000 and the new Intel Play Digital Movie Creator, a children's video camera. All three use universal serial bus (USB) connections to hook up with a PC and will ship this month.

The new cameras and MP3 player join a host of PC-related products, gadgets generally priced under $200, that allow consumers to create, store and then share personal multimedia files, such as pictures or short videos, using a PC.

The devices serve to help Intel promote its consumer brand and evangelize its vision of the PC as the center of the home-computing universe. The devices, which aim at fairly processor-intensive tasks, such as editing video, also encourage upgrades, analysts say.

"There's a definite synergy between these products and the PC," said Brian Ma, an analyst with IDC. "Even more so, it helps drive demand for the PC, and ultimately it helps to create an environment that helps shore up (Intel's) primary market."

Research company ARS, which keeps a "score card" for retail presence for devices like digital cameras, shows Intel as having carved out a sizable chunk of the PC camera market. Intel was second only to Logitech in retail shelf space for cameras in September. Logitech, the maker of PC cameras as well as keyboards and mice, garnered 25 percent of retail shelf space for cameras in September. Intel followed with 21 percent. The rest of the field, including Creative, IBM and Kensington, each had nine percent. The results are similar for previous months.

Because the cameras require a fair amount of horsepower to process images, they're seen as a good motivator to get PC users to upgrade.

"Most importantly, Intel is to stimulate the next wave of buying, and these devices require a fairly well-equipped PC," said Dwaine Smith, research analyst at ARS.

Intel's new Pocket Digital PC Camera offers mega-pixel resolution for digital still photos and can also capture video. The camera features 16MB of built-in memory, good for 256 photos, and lists for $149.99.

Intel's new MP3 player, the Personal Audio Player 3000, which changes colors via inserts in its faceplate, offers 64MB of memory. Intel says this is good enough to store up to two hours of digital music. Additional memory can be added via an external expansion slot. The MP3 player lists for $149.99.

Meanwhile, the Intel Play Digital Movie Creator, aimed at allowing children to create and edit short movies of up to four minutes in length, lists for $99. The device can also take still photos.