AMD steps up entertainment push

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AMD steps up entertainment push

Chipmaker launches Microsoft Home Server reference design and AMD Live
laptops.

AMD has unveiled a set of products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that aim to let consumers better manage digital media. 

The products further build out AMD's Live Entertainment PC program with the launch of new notebooks, a media server and TV set-top box. 

The new notebooks will be available from a series of manufacturers including Fujitsu Siemens. To qualify for the Live logo, systems require an AMD Turion 64 x2 dual-core processor and an advanced graphics card. 

AMD also unveiled several new Live branded software applications designed to make it easer for consumers to manage digital content and devices.

The tools help consumers transfer recorded TV programmes between devices, for instance, and compress video files to save disk space.

The software is available as a free download to end users, or can be bundled with new systems by the manufacturer. 

AMD also unveiled two reference designs for consumer electronics devices which the company has made available to manufacturers.

The AMD Live Home Media server allows consumers to back up digital media stored on PCs, laptops and other devices.

It will also stream the content throughout the home, act as a printer server and automatically push fresh content to a portable device as soon as it connects to the network.

The device runs the Windows Home Server software unveiled by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in his CES opening keynote on Sunday.

It is essentially a computer with lots of storage, which could also perform home automation tasks such as controlling the thermostat, monitoring a security system and operating a telephony control server.

AMD expects the first devices to become available by the third quarter of this year, but could not give a projected price for the device.

HP is scheduled to be one of the first manufacturers to bring an AMD-powered Windows Home Server to market with its HP MediaSmart Server.

Richard Shim, a senior research analyst with IDC, warned that setting up the device and network will be a daunting task. 

"Folks hire people to organise their closets. This home media server is your central closet for all your digital media content. That kind of stuff just doesn't fall into place," Shim told vnunet.com. 

The analyst believes that the product is the most ambitious of the new devices that AMD launched.

A more down-to-earth offering is AMD's Live Home Cinema that aims to replace the digital video recorder, sound system, DVD player and cable set-top box with a single device. AMD expects devices to retail at $1,000 to $3,000.

Aaron Feen, director of consumer marketing at AMD, told vnunet.com that he expects the units to do well with the "high end audio/video crowd looking for an all-in-one solution". The first units will start shipping in the coming three months. 

AMD launched Live as a consumer brand last year, shortly after Intel unveiled its Viiv entertainment platform. 

Critics dismissed the initiative at the time as a marketing stunt, but were quickly silenced when market data indicated that AMD Live PCs were outselling Intel Viiv models.

Although Viiv and Live attempt to crack the digital entertainment market, the two vendors are taking a different approach.

Intel is offering a set of premium services such as video downloads available to Viiv users only. The move could upset cable and satellite providers as consumers grow accustomed to downloading entertainment from the internet.

AMD, meanwhile, is preferring to partner with existing players. "We are looking to be the best partners to [companies which] are already in the living room. We do not look to replace existing services," said Feen.
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