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Intel Eyes Entertainment PCs

Trying to repeat the success of its Centrino brand for notebook computers, chip-maker Intel Corp. said Wednesday it will launch a set of technologies geared specifically for entertainment PCs.

Computers carrying an "Intel Viiv" sticker will feature the chip maker's microprocessors along with other Intel hardware and software. Viiv systems will ship early next year with a remote control.

"Intel Viiv technology is our first platform designed from the ground up for the digital home," said Don MacDonald, general manager of Intel Digital Home Group.

The world's largest chip maker undertook a similar strategy of combining multiple chips into a single platform with Centrino, which includes an energy-efficient processor, chip set and wireless hardware.

Intel backed up Centrino's launch in 2003 with a $300 million marketing campaign. Since then, the company's share of the notebook chip market has grown steadily.

It was not clear whether Intel would commit the same resources to Viiv (rhymes with "five"). The company also did not disclose the names of PC makers that will offer the PCs or how much subsidy they will receive as an incentive to participate.

Intel recently introduced a computer "platform" for businesses, and its offering in the area of entertainment PCs had been expected.

PC and software makers see the living room as a huge growth opportunity as more entertainment becomes digitized and consumers look for ways to better manage their music, video, photos, movies and television shows.

Viiv-based computers are expected to be available in a variety of forms, ranging from the size of a stereo system component to a more traditional PC tower. All will run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center operating system.

Intel said PC owners will be able to click their Viiv computers on and off, after the initial boot, with the press of a button. The machines also ship with 5.1 surround sound, with an option to upgrade to 7.1.

Viiv systems will include a configuration wizard to walk users through setting up network components using their remote control.

In addition, the systems will have a media server "engine" that reformats digital content for viewing on a variety of devices. A validation program will certify devices that will work with Viiv technology, much like Intel certified hotspots that will work with Centrino.

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