Intel Foretells Personal Server

Intel's prototype device-designed to showcase its chips-is designed to let users maintain a personal multimedia diary that keeps the most frequently used documents handy.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Intel Corp. has built a prototype of a "personal server" that could become the personal multimedia diary of the future.

The small device, about the size of a deck of playing cards, isnt designed to be an Intel-branded product. However, Intel commissions internal research projects in bids to promote computing—and sales of Intel silicon. Intel will show off the prototype at this weeks Intel Developer Forum here.

The idea is similar to the "life immersion" project proposed by Microsoft researchers a year and a half ago. Under a research project that is currently receiving funding, Intel internal researchers and university students are exploring whether an individual can essentially record his life onto a personal recording device, while keeping his most frequently accessed documents close at hand.

"After 10 years working and building PDA technologies, I always thought when I got to the (Compaq) iPaq, we would have finally reached utopia," said Roy Want, a member of Intels research staff in Santa Clara, Calif. "The reality is that for an IT professional the PDA is too small. The screen is too small ... and for professional work it really doesnt cut it."

Intels portable server uses an XScale processor mounted alongside a flash card or a mobile hard drive. The device uses Bluetooth to connect to local access points,and lacks a display. "We are taking an extreme view of the device and its concept," Want said.

Intels design uses wireless as an I/O method as well as a data interface. When the device is moved to a new location, it could "announce" itself to the local infrastructure, Want said.

Although the personal server would not require a PC to record and play back data, any sophisticated manipulation of files would require an external display. In a demonstration, Intel showed a notebook that wirelessly connected to the personal server and then manipulated data using a proprietary GUI. Internally, the prototype personal server uses a Linux operating system. Intel has also developed a remote control that can manipulate the UI in case the PC is "behind glass," such as in a store.

The personal server will require a new layer of computing infrastructure to be viable, Want acknowledged. PCs will have to be deployed in public places and in retail outlets. "We will have to make PCs proliferate all over the working environment," Want said.

Although the personal server will be used to "cache" only a small portion of a users most frequently accessed files inside the personal device, the device could also be used to archive "life data" back onto a PC. Its possible, Want said, that a user could hook up a discreet camera to record what the user sees and experiences.

"I claim that I can, possibly by 2012 … that you can store all your life experiences, from the point when you are born to when you die," Want said.

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