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Intel uncorks home-networking plans

The company wants to make it easier for people to shuttle media files throughout their homes, and it shows off concept PCs, including one with an "instant on" capability.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel on Tuesday unveiled a variety of product ideas and design guidelines aimed at making it easier to shuttle media throughout a networked home.

In a keynote speech, Intel executive Louis Burns was set to discuss several ideas the chipmaker has on how the process of accessing movies and other media throughout the home can be simplified.

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What's new:
At its developer confab, Intel shows off product ideas and design guidelines geared toward moving digital media around the home.

Bottom line:
The digital home is pushing past the realm of daydream and becoming a budding reality as more and more media is translated into bits and bytes. The chip giant wants a piece of the action.

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"First, we must make the whole experience simple," Burns said in a statement ahead of the afternoon speech at the Intel Developer Forum here. "Devices have to work right out of the box. They have to be easy to set up, easy to turn on and off, easy to operate and easy to access. Secondly, consumers want all their devices to connect and communicate wirelessly. Cable clutter and multiple remotes just won't cut it. Finally, content delivery must be a high-quality audio and video experience."

Intel showed off two concept PC designs for new types of entertainment-oriented PCs. The first, dubbed Kessler, is a slim entertainment PC that runs Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition and connects to a TV. The device will be capable of sharing content wirelessly and, like today's Media Center-based PCs, can be operated with a remote control instead of a keyboard.

"The Kessler platform simplifies the digital home by integrating a whole rack of multiple devices into a single unit," said Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group. Contract manufacturer First International Computer will have a version of Kessler available for computer makers later this year.

The other design, code-named Sandow, is slated to arrive in 2005 and adds an "instant on" capability as well as the ability to play and record high-definition television.

In addition to its ideas for the industry, Intel discussed two new PC chipsets of its own. The first--designed for mainstream PCs--is code-named Grantsdale and includes integrated graphics, support for dual monitors, support for faster DDR2 memory and PCI Express--a faster connection for shuttling data within a PC.

Intel also plans a higher-end model for gamers and other enthusiasts, called Alderwood. Both Grantsdale and Alderwood will enable PCs to function as a wireless access point without a separate router. They will also perform so-called RAID (redundant array of independent disks) functions, which allow data to be continuously mirrored to a second hard drive.

The chipmaking giant is one among a number of technology companies preparing for a digital revolution of sorts. More and more, media is becoming digitized, theoretically enabling consumers to use it anywhere and on any device because of its portable nature. This is opening the door for gadget makers and their component partners, which is where Intel hopes to play a significant role. However, for this vision to become a reality, companies will have to work together to figure out how to manage digital content while packaging it in a way that is palatable to consumers.

Intel is part of a group of companies called the Digital Home Working Group. The alliance of at least 18 major companies is working on a means of connecting products so that consumers can use a network to access and share resources on home devices in the same way they share a printer or broadband connection at work. For example, people would be able to play digital audio on their living room stereo, even though the music files themselves are stored on a computer in the den.

The group includes companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Sony.

Earlier on Tuesday, Intel announced plans to ship its first chip that extends the current x86 processor to include 64-bit instructions, a move that follows a similar approach by rival Advanced Micro Devices. The chip is slated to ship next quarter.

Intel also announced its support for a new Web services technology that's designed to enable various noncomputing devices to find one another and exchange data. The WS-Discovery standard is a proposed standard BEA Systems, Canon, Intel and Microsoft are supporting.