CES - AMD goes live with digital home strategy

Articulating its own vision of the digital home days before its major rival unveils a similar marketing initiative, Advanced Micro Devices has announced plans to brand AMD-based PCs designed specifically for home media networking.

AMD has struck an alliance with set-top box chip maker, STMicroelectronics, and unveiled the AMD Live! brand last week at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Marketing architect at AMD, Hal Speed, said the companies wanted to make it easier for consumers to blend content available over cable and satellite broadcast networks with content delivered over the Internet to PCs.

Vendors at CES have slightly different versions of what makes up a digital home and what type of products are best used to build that home. PC vendors envision a home media network with the PC at the centre of multiple displays and networking devices, while other consumer electronics vendors have embraced gaming consoles, smart televisions, and any number of other configurations.

Consumers seem eager to get on board, with Media Center PCs and high-definition televisions finally starting to ship in larger volumes this year, but connecting these devices is not easy even for tech-savvy users. AMD's idea is to start small, working on developing PCs that work closely with set-top boxes so consumers can connect their PCs and their televisions, Speed said.

Around the middle of this year, PCs will start to appear with AMD's Live! brand, Speed said. This will mean those PCs are powerful enough to handle multimedia applications and capable of providing the so-called "10-foot experience," he said. One common strategy among various digital home-inclined PC vendors is allowing home users to work with their PCs from across a room, rather than the common practice of sitting two feet away from the screen at a desk with conventional PCs.

AMD's announcement comes as its major rival, Intel, unveiled its own digital home branding strategy, Viiv, at CES.

Intel doesn't just want to make processors anymore, it wants to provide all the silicon and embedded software needed to run a modern PC. The first iteration of this strategy, its Centrino mobile technology, has been so successful Intel plans to try again with Viiv.

Like Centrino, Intel's PC partners will be able to take advantage of the marketing and advertising resources Intel plans to put behind the Viiv brand so long as they include an assortment of Intel components in their PCs. This includes a dual-core Intel processor, Intel chipsets designed specifically for home media applications, and Intel networking chips.

Viiv will be a formidable foe for AMD's Live! brand, as Intel's marketing budget far exceeds AMD's. But AMD thinks it can gain traction with the brand by emphasizing the freedom vendors have to choose components for their PCs and undertaking a collaborative approach with the consumer electronics industry, Speed said.

"We're not trying to cannibalize the [consumer electronics] industry. We want them to tap into the PC. No single company can do this themselves," Speed said.

AMD is working with several different PC companies on AMD Live! PCs, but Speed declined to specify which companies plan to launch PCs with the brand.

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