Today, Intel publicly announced there new Viiv Technology that will bring further move along the PC as a home entertainment device. Here’s some of my thoughts on what Viiv means to Media Center, the PC in your home, and what it actually means to you!
Viiv is the start of making the PC the center of home entertainment, and it allows this to happen in several form factors. For the person will wants a PC in the living, there will be form factors for you that are “similar to a stereo component or DVD player” and also traditional desktop and tower form factors for the person who would rather not have a PC in there living room, but instead use more traditional Consumer Electronics (CE) devices thought-out their homes.
All PC’s based around Viiv will ship with a remote control, dual-core processors, platform specific software and of course wired (wireless option) networking built in. You can compare Viiv Technology to Intel’s Centrino Technology. At its most basic marketing form, it’s a collection of different technologies all wrapped together to provide the consumer with the proper functionally for their tasks. With Centrino its wireless network adaptors, Pentium M processors and everything else needed to provide the consumer with the best mobile experience. With Viiv, it’s a remote, dual-core processor, and everything else needed to provide the consumer with the best home entertainment experience.
Intel also said that all PC’s that ship with Viiv Technology will include Windows XP Media Center Edition. This will surely be a boost in sales for Microsoft for the MCE platform, plus consumers will get to bring a new world of growing opportunities with Media Center Extenders, much like the built-in Extender that will ship with the Xbox 360.
Viiv Technology is the start of making the PC act and look like a CE device. While Intel has announced to technology now, it will take time before the average consumer is ready to accept it as a CE device. This is a good reason why they are making several form factors as I talked about above. According to Intel, after the initial boot-up of the PC, Intel Quick Resume Technology is going to allow the PC to instantly be turned on or off with the touch of the button. It is my guess that this ability will extend to the included remote with the machine, giving the consumer a CE-like experience with a PC. 5.1 or 7.1 audio will also ship with all Viiv PC’s, most likely using Intel’s HD Audio platform.
Much like Media Center PC’s currently, a TV tuner will be an optional device to be included on Viiv-based PC’s. It’s my guess that after the first 6 months or so of the Viiv platform being on sale that most machines will ship with at least a single TV tuner. The space saved with interested components will most likely free up expansion slots for TV tuners.
Intel also said that Viiv-based PC’s will “connect easily to the latest online entertainment services, enabling movie and music downloads, as well as access to the latest games — all viewed and played from the comfort of the couch.” I’m assuming that this functionally comes from Media Center, not so much Intel’s side. The current Online Spotlight in Media Center offers much of this functionally.
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting bits from Intel today is that Viiv Technology will include an “integrated media server engine”. According to Intel this means Viiv-based PC’s will be able to “reformat various digital content files so they can be viewed on a selection of devices verified by Intel to work with Intel Viiv Technology-based system.” Update: It’s supposed to be “reformated” to be DLNA Compliant. (EDIT: Media Center Extenders are DLNA Compliant) Very little information is available on this specifically,
my guess is that this means Viiv-based PC’s will ship with a hardware encoder onboard, most likely encoding to WMV9. This will likely be software assisted (dual-core, a bit extra to burn for transcoding digital content), and would play into Microsoft’s PlaysForSure digital content strategy. This is backed up by Intel saying “Additionally, we [Intel] worked with the PC, CE and content industries to set interoperability specifications so that consumers can easily move a variety of online media from room to room and between various devices in the home network.” This is the exact idea behind PlaysForSure . This would also be the perfect match for Microsoft’s current batch of Media Center Extenders, which don’t support decode of DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, etc. This content would be transcoded in real-time (or near real-time) to WMV9, then spit out to the network for playback on the device.