Personal Tech: Getting PCs ready for the family room
Nobody wants a ragged piece of living-room furniture, much less clumsy and ugly electronics. So computer makers have had trouble selling noisy and tall PCs with their complicated software as the backbone for a home entertainment center. In response, Intel last week said it is working to give computers some of the sheen and simplicity of a DVD player.
Start with the on-off switch. Few consumers have the patience to wait for Microsoft Windows to boot up when they just want to hear a favorite song or watch a scene from a movie. In a presentation to a technical conference, Intelwhich supplies chips for most of the world's personal computersdemonstrated a media PC that turns on and off instantly. Other new features include software that can play the dozens of digital video formats out there and "multicore" chips that can keep playing the movie even if another program crashes that was, say, simultaneously sending music to a stereo in the next room. Intel is selling the chips and concepts to PC makers, which are expected to release models early next year, some in small boxes that resemble DVD players.
It's part of Intel's effort to move beyond basic PCs, whose prices and profits continue to shrink. The company succeeded in boosting notebook computer sales by marketing wireless Centrino models. For media PCs, Intel said the brand name would be "Viiv," which it says rhymes with "five."
But success is uncertain against seasoned consumer electronics companies that better understand simplicitystarting with brand names that don't need instructions on how to pronounce them.
A weekly feature of usnews.com, Personal Tech reviews the latest in consumer electronics and gadgets.