Intel to Switch PCs on Like a Light

The IDF gathering will afford attendees a sneak peek at a technology that lets users recover seamlessly in case of power loss. Should UPS vendors worry?

SAN JOSE, Calif.—On Tuesday, Intel Corp. will offer a sneak peek at a technology that will treat a PC like a television, snapping it on or off at the touch of a button with no booting required.

The unnamed technology could have an impact on the manufacturers of uninterruptible power supplies. The technology will apparently work in the case of an unexpected power loss, mitigating the need for a battery backup.

"Its much like watching television," said Kevin Corbett, marketing director of strategic planning for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. "If youre watching Channel 31 when the power goes off, good televisions will come back on Channel 31."

Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of the Desktop Platforms Group at Intel, will announce the new technology in a keynote speech Tuesday afternoon here at the Intel Developer Forum.

Burns will also introduce the BTX form factor, designed to allow high-performance computing to be set within even smaller form factors, such as an all-in-one prototype from Gateway Inc. Meanwhile, Intel and several Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers will announce the 0.9 specification of the Digital Transmission Content Protection Standard, which aims to secure content passing over the IP protocols used by home networks.

Although Intel and the PC industry have made great strides in simplifying and optimizing PCs for the home, hardware makers have still not quite been able to make them act like consumer devices while retaining their sophistication. The Media Center PC from Microsoft Corp. attempted to simplify the software interface, while Intels initiative will try to do the same for the hardware.

The new technology will instantly save the "state" of the PC: which applications were open, which tasks the user was working on, and so on. But instead of asking the user to wade through a tree of shutdown options, the PC will "snap off" into a low-power state, Corbett said. Upon pressing the power button again, the PC will "snap on" to its previous state.

"This will allow the PC to operate like a consumer device, virtually shutting off into standby mode," Corbett said. "You dont have to go through all of the different conditions; it saves whatever state you were in. The really exciting part is that when you pull the (power) cord and the power goes away, everything shuts down."

Corbett said Burns will not disclose whether the new innovation is tied to the system hardware, or the BIOS and operating system. Intel will leave future in-depth discussions of the technology to future IDFs.

Attendees will also see a Gateway prototype device, possibly part of the companys Profile lineup, that will boast an LCD mounted on the back of the chassis.

To enable more computing devices to be scattered throughout the home—and sell more Intel silicon—Intel will announce the BTX motherboard specification, designed as an evolutionary step beyond the micro-ATX specification. Its possible that the specification will compete against the micro-ITX specification developed by Taiwan chipset vendor Via Technologies Inc.

"Its a completely different initiative," Corbett said of the Via specification. "That is all about getting Via silicon into boxes. Ours is how we take high computing into smaller form factor devices."

The underlying message of Burns speech will be the need to develop standards and methods to transmit content throughout the home, while still respecting the rights of copyright holders. By and large, the wireless networks infrastructure is already in place, with home networking equipment flying off retailers shelves. "The last place to protect the content is between devices," Corbett said.

The DTCP specification has been worked on since 2002, when the so-called "5C" consortium—Intel Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.—first proposed it.

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