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Intel developer forum starts

Making multimedia a moving experience will be the main theme.

Making multimedia a moving experience will be the main theme at the Intel Developer Conference that begins today.

The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaking giant will hold a three-day developer's conference focused on enhancing the performance of multimedia technologies expected to meld home entertainment and PC products.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.

Conference sessions will cover the development of PC Theater products as well as creating interactive Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) titles which use the host Pentium II processor to playback video and audio information.

PC Theater is a set of guidelines that Intel, Compaq, and other manufacturers are working with to develop PC-TVs and related products. "[With PC-TVs] users will expect the same instant accessibility as with a consumer electronics product...[Experts will offer] insights that will lead to a high quality PC Theater product," according to an Intel brief of a presentation at the conference.

But Intel and PC manufacturers have their work cut out for them in getting more PC-TVs into the hands of consumers. To date, PC-TVs have been extremely pricey--typically well above $3,000--and therefore out of the reach of most consumers. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by all parties involved in the development of these new-fangled systems which merge PCs with home electronics.

In the DVD sessions, Intel is expected to propose that DVD titles can be played back on a Pentium II processor without any assistance from special hardware, thereby allowing computer makers to cut costs by doing DVD playback directly on an Intel processor.

However, Intel will need to address skeptics who have pointed out that eliminating a separate processor for DVD can slow down a system. DVD is a next-generation CD technology. Currently, computer vendors must use a separate chip to playback MPEG data from a DVD disk.

Another drawback is that one would need to have a very fast processor incorporated into a high-end $2,000 or $3,000 computer, which essentially offsets the cost saved by eliminating an additional processor for playback. Intel is expected to address some of these concerns at the conference.

Also, at the conference Intel will address the development of interconnect technologies such as FireWire, which was originally developed by Apple. The IEEE 1394 FireWire standard is designed for devices which transfer multimedia-rich data such as digital camcorders. FireWire could eliminate the need to install cards into dedicated computer slots and reconfigure a PC when adding peripherals.

Other issues to be covered include optimizing Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) memory management and 3D hardware designs to improve performance on the Intel architecture. AGP enables computers to handle high-end 3D graphics at a relatively low cost by storing large amounts of graphics data in a system's less-expensive main memory instead of higher-cost video memory.

Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's desktop product group, will kick off the conference with a keynote on "The Balanced PC Platform." Gordon Moore, chairman emeritus of Intel, will deliver a keynote on Tuesday, September 30, on the current state of Moore's Law. Dan Russell, director of platform marketing, will discuss the PC 98 system design guides specifications, a series of specifications and recommendations drawn up by Intel and Microsoft.

Graphical computing has become an obsession for Intel over the past two years. Complex graphics are expected to create demand for more powerful processors and, hence, more sales for Intel. To this end, the company has released technologies, such as MMX and AGP, for enhancing multimedia processing. More recently, Intel moved to acquire Chips and Technologies, a manufacturer of graphics processors.