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Intel unveils new brand aimed at consumers

Intel Corp. Wednesday took the wraps off plans for a new kind of personal computer aimed squarely at the digital living room that will use what the world's largest semiconductor maker has dubbed Viiv technology.
/ Source: Reuters

Intel really wants inside your living room.

Intel Corp. Wednesday took the wraps off plans for a new kind of personal computer aimed squarely at the digital living room that will use what the world's largest semiconductor maker has dubbed Viiv technology.

Viiv (pronounced to rhyme with five) is a collection of its dual-core microprocessors, chipsets, software and networking capabilities. PCs based on Viiv will work with high-end monitors and a TV-like remote control.

They will use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center Edition operating system, which is the software giant's attempt to move into the living room itself.

Intel said PC makers such as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Gateway Inc. and others will have the Viiv PCs available in the first quarter of 2006 in various styles, shapes and sizes. Details on pricing weren't immediately available.

Intel has in years past tried to break into the cutthroat consumer electronics business in smaller measures. In the late 1990s it sold digital microscopes, home networking gear and even digital music players, but this time it's an all-out effort.

Also, despite repeated attempts by the PC industry, a device that successfully marries television and the PC and sells hundreds of millions of devices hasn't yet panned out.

"This one is going to be successful, I think," said Roger Kay, principal of Endpoint Technologies Associates, market research firm based outside of Boston. "I believe all the PC makers will adopt this because it's sort of a no-brainer."

Kay said that Intel will also put some serious cash behind the effort, both in terms of advertising dollars and marketing subsidies to PC makers and other partners.

"Centrino was $300 million, so I would think between $100 million to $300 million will go into this," Kay said, referring to advertising spending and marketing subsidies.

An Intel spokesman declined to comment on how much the Santa Clara, California-based company Viiv plans on ad spending.

The "Intel Inside" marketing campaign, under which Intel reimburses PC makers for their advertising spending that use the Intel logo in their advertising, is largely why the company has one of the best-known brands in the world.

Intel was the fifth most valuable brand in the world in 2005, according to Interbrand, ranking even ahead of Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's Corp. In addition to the Pentium brand, Intel has already had success with its Centrino platform, a collection of chips for wireless computing on laptop PCs.

"Intel Viiv technology is our first platform designed from the ground up for the digital home, where consumers are passionate about the idea of accessing their content anytime, anywhere in their home on a number of devices," said Don MacDonald, head of Intel's Digital Home Corp.

His comments are a refrain of those that have been made for the better part of a decade in the technology industry. But now, analysts said, with the increasing proliferation of high-speed Internet access in the United States and the digitization of content such as movies and music, the digital living and convergence have arrived.

Consumers will be able -- after their initial boot-up -- to turn the Viiv-powered PCs on and off quickly by pushing a button. Each Intel Viiv-based PC will also come with surround sound for home theater-quality sound.

With an optional TV tuner card, the same Viiv PC will be able to record, pause and rewind live television and store them on the PC's hard drive, Intel said.

The Viiv PCs will also connect easily to online entertainment services, enabling movie and music downloads, as well as access to the latest games.

"We have to get it right," MacDonald said at a briefing at the Intel Developer Forum here to discuss Viiv, adding that Viiv is a stand-alone business and must survive on its own.

MacDonald said that Intel settled on the Viiv brand name after extensive research by an external branding agency.

"It's a palindrome, it's very easy to say around the world," MacDonald said. "We're dealing with consumers here, this is not rational. "If you try to have an engineering conversation with a consumer, you're wasting your time."