Intel Brings Dual-Core Tech to Digital Home

The company aims to replace separate devices within the home through PCs equipped with dual-core processors. Executives say cannibalization of single-core PCs is not a concern.

SAN FRANCISCO—Intel executives on Tuesday said they hope to bring the PC and consumer-electronics markets closer together through PCs equipped with dual-core processors, which will begin to replace separate devices within the home.

Intel described two of its digital-home platforms at the Intel Developer Forum here, while offering additional demonstrations of its virtualization technology, which Intel is positioning within the home as a "moat" protecting occupants from spyware and malware.

Led by newly appointed general manager Don MacDonald, Intel Corp. hopes to add excitement to the home market.

MacDonald called the television perhaps the most important commodity of the most recent decades, and noted that the value to the consumer—i.e., sales—jumped when innovations such as color TV and more recently digital TV services began taking off.

"Each new device that you bring, each new service, each new business model expands your opportunity to get a slice of a $3.7 billion digital world," MacDonald told attendees.

Intel has struggled to crack the consumer market. Set-top boxes typically have used RISC processors to manage content and interactive services. However, the Microsoft-designed Windows Media Center PCs typically have been built around Intel processors and chip sets.

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Intel also entered and then pulled out of the LCOS (liquid-crystal-on-silicon) market, a display technology that promised to harness the power of Moores Law to reduce the cost of digital displays.

MacDonald now oversees some of the application processors that have proven difficult to sell to customers, in addition to the Oplus Technologies Inc. video technology that Intel acquired last week.

Intels consumer-electronics platform will be based around the older Intel 815 and 830 chip sets, together with the "Rembrandt" digital display processor, the "Matisse" digital video interlacer and the "Monet" display processor.

MacDonald acknowledged that LCOS did not meet the companys aspirations, which is why Intel decided to pull out of the technology. But Sean Maloney, general manager of Intels mobility division, added that Intels lesson is that "we cant be concerned with the fear of failure."

During 2005, Intels digital-home platform will be code-named "Anchor Creek," based around either the dual-core Pentium D or hyperthreading-enabled Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.

In 2006, Anchor Creek will be replaced by "Bridge Creek," based around the next-generation "Presler" processor and "Broadwater" chip set. Intels mobile offerings, meanwhile, are based around the "Sonoma" and "Napa" platforms, using the current Pentium processor and next-generation dual-core "Yonah" processor, respectively.

In an interview Tuesday night, MacDonald said he plans to widen the definition of "digital home" further than did his predecessors, who include former general manager Louis Burns. Burns is now overseeing Intels efforts to address the health and wellness market, the largest business segment in the United States.

Intel typically reshuffles its managers to allow them to take on new jobs within the company, but MacDonald also oversaw the successful "Centrino" campaign that surrounded Intels Pentium M processor.

In a demonstration, MacDonald showed off a digital-home setup where one person watched a television program encoded in the 1080p video format while another played a video game in another room.

In years past, that demonstration would have used two PCs, one for each application. But MacDonald said Intel is not worried about the prospect of a dual-core PC cannibalizing sales of single-core PCs.

"It wont make that much difference … we had the same conversation when we gave our employees notebooks, that they would take them home and not buy a home PC," MacDonald said in a question-and-answer session following the keynote address.

As long as Intel and its partners continue to develop "gorgeous-looking" home PCs, the company wont have to worry about cannibalization, MacDonald said.

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