Every Thursday Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, a weekly opinion column on entertainment and technology:

Intel VIIV

Oh great – just when we've uncovered ourselves from the marketing ooze of Centrino ™, Intel announces that they're going to do it again. It, of course, is taking a set of technologies that by and large exist in the marketplace, changing them just a bit, and branding them with its own unified brand.

I hope you're ready for the "intersection point where innovation, a multitude of digital devices, first-class entertainment and state of the art technology converge to put consumers in more control of experiencing digital entertainment on their own terms."

(Need to take a shower after that marketing ooze? I'll wait.)

Because ready or not here comes Viiv?, Intel?s newest entr?e into both the digital entertainment market and the who-the-heck-named-this-thing market. You see ? after years and years of making the latest and greatest living-room-PC concept machines, someone at Intel finally woke up and just like a classic movie from the fifties yelled, ?Stop the presses. No one is actually manufacturing these things.? It was a real revelation for the good folks at Intel. So they?ve retooled their thought process. It turns out that by creating a concept AND slapping a logo on it you?re going to have a lot more success.


So what is Viiv?

Viiv is really two things. First it?s a set of standard components that a manufacturer must include to get that snazzy Viiv logo on its PC. For instance, all Viiv machines will include 5.1 sound, a dual-core processor, Microsoft?s Windows XP Media Center Edition, a remote control, super-duper hibernate and resume, etc.

Second, Viiv looks to be an (arguably) more marketable name for Intel?s East Fork technology. Much like Media Connect, DLNA, UPnP A/V, Media Center Extenders, etc., East Fork is just another variant in the ?share your content around the house? game. In fact, East Fork is largely based on many of the aforementioned technologies.

Intel has built upon widely-recognized standards (e.g. UPnP A/V and, in turn, DLNA) and also has added their own special sauce. The result Intel hopes will give consumers access to digital content from a multitude of devices. Viiv?s ?integrated media server ?engine?? will, in theory, allow consumers to connect other CE devices to a centralized store of content located on the PC. Viiv will recognize the capabilities of ancillary devices and transcode the content as needed.

There are two ways to look at this: a) it will offer users new and exciting ways to access their content or b) it?s just another slap in the face to all Linux users.

For the majority involved (read: Windows users, Intel, and Microsoft), Intel?s strategy is largely a good one. By including the technology needed for three separate streaming systems (i.e. Microsoft Media Center Extenders, Windows Media Connect and the native Viiv technology), Intel will be able to offer Viiv-logo?d-computer-users functionality right out of the gate.

If you have a Viiv computer and an Xbox 360, you?ll be able to remote your Media Center experience right from the get go. They?ll be able to hit the market with a story and you?ll have a nice simple way to enjoy some of the benefits. (Note: this is no different from any combination of Microsoft Media Center Edition and the Xbox 360.) Likewise, Dlink?s Media Lounge, Roku, etc. will allow quick and dirty media sharing via Window?s Media Connect.

In the meantime Intel will be doing its darnedest to convince manufacturers to develop, produce, and bring to market CE devices that are fully compatible with their East Fork technology. Viiv should offer greater functionality than today?s rather limited offerings. Viiv?s ability to transcode should broaden the number of media file types devices are able to play. Furthermore, Intel?s juggernaut of a PR hype machine might be able to put some framework around the sea of capital letters parading as media protocols (e.g. UPnP, DLNA, RUI, XRT, etc.)

But what if you?re a Linux or an Apple user?

There the story is a little less clear. If Intel does, in fact, manage to convince the world that they?re the kings of moving data around the house, how does the average Linux user feed the system? Intel?s ?integrated media server engine? is, by Viiv?s definition, integrated into Window?s Media Center, but it seems short-sighted of Intel to limit its server strictly to Windows machines.

One thing is clear. You better put on your toga because we?re about to be inundated with a sea of Roman numerals.


If you have comments or suggestions for future columns, drop me a line at theclicker@theevilempire.com.

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The Clicker: According to Intel, HTPC is spelled VIIV