On the heels of a speech by Bill Gates that focused on the PC as the center of home media, Intel President and COO Paul Otellini weighed in with his own vision for the digital home at the Consumer Electronics Show.
In an address on Thursday, Otellini introduced the Entertainment PC, an all-in-one device that lets users organize and store music, movies, TV shows, games and high-definition video and share content wirelessly with other devices.
The Entertainment PC connects to a television screen, uses a single remote control instead of a keyboard and looks more like an audio or video box than a PC. In fact, it’s designed to replace the familiar stack of boxes linked to the television, such as the stereo receiver, DVD player, digital video recorder and CD player.
Currently, “if you want to use all these devices at once, it’s a mess,” Otellini said. “What consumers want is, make it simple.”
Otellini demonstrated how the technology provides media to all areas of the home — from streaming a television show from the PC to a TV in another room of the house to streaming music wirelessly to a car radio.
The Entertainment PC will be available later this year from a variety of manufacturers and is expected to sell for less than $800, the company said.
Otellini also announced Intel’s commitment to bringing Intel Silicon architecture to CE devices. The company has formed a new division called the Consumer Electronics Group to work toward this goal.
He also presented new large-screen televisions, the centerpiece of Intel’s venture into consumer electronics. The TVs use Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) technology, which provides clearer pictures and costs less than HDTVs currently on the market.
New LCOS displays will give consumers “film-like HDTV experiences at very affordable prices,” Otellini said. He predicted that by 2005, consumers would be able to buy a 50-inch HDTV for less than $1,800.
“This will change big screen television economics,” he said.
Meanwhile, Otellini highlighted several portable media players from Creative, iRiver and Samsung that use Intel technology.
To further its commitment to CE, the company has established the Digital Home Fund, a $200 million venture capital fund to invest in companies developing hardware and software for CE devices.
Intel is using digital transmission content protection, or DTCP, technology to enable content to be shared on multiple devices in the home but protect it from unauthorized use. Content providers like Sony Pictures, Musicmatch, Disney, EMI and Lion’s Gate Entertainment all endorsed the technology.
Veteran actor Morgan Freeman made an appearance on stage with Otellini to lend his support, too. He said that Intel’s plans were a positive step for the artists, consumers and industry.
Freeman, who also runs Revelations Entertainment, predicted that by 2005, a film would be available on the Net the same day it’s released in movie theaters: “It’s going to happen.”
And just in case the audience didn’t get the message that Intel’s products will simplify the lives of consumers everywhere, the company showed a clever video, Digital Eye for the Analog Guy, a spoof on the popular television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, featuring a team of digital experts converging on a hopelessly out-of-date family — tossing aside tangles of wires and boxes to make room for the new technology: the Entertainment PC and LCOS TV.
One analyst called Otellini’s presentation a “very compelling vision.”
“The vision he portrayed was absolutely where we are headed,” said Van Baker, an analyst with GartnerG2. “Consumers want any content anywhere at any time and that’s ultimately the vision that he laid out.”
However, he said plenty of hurdles remain in the way of that vision, like networking and standards issues.
“Most consumers do not like the idea of being a network administrator in their home,” Baker said.
“As long as we have competing audio and video codecs, that’s a problem,” he said. “The consumer doesn’t want too have to think about that.”