Here at CES, AMD has been talking to us about its vision for the future of the digital home. AMD plans to extend its 'Live!' brand into the consumer space to provide the media functionality it believes consumers want.
The AMD Live! brand is currently well known in the professional space. It encompasses the firm's professional media ambitions, with musicians and film studios working on systems using AMD technology to create their work. One such example of the Live! brand in practice is Lucasfilm's use of Opterons, as we reported on a while back.
The AMD digital home vision
AMD's vision of a digital home is different from Intel's, needless to say. With Viiv, Intel is planning on making the PC ubiquitous across the digital home. It plans for you to have a central machine, to aggregate content from other machines, to have machines under each TV to do your PVR and the like. It is using open standards from the Digital Living Network Alliance (an industry consortium), but is working to provide Viiv-exclusive content and functionality to drive demand for its own hardware.
AMD believes that only one PC is really needed to be at the centre of the digital home. This PC stores photos, music and video, and then feeds CE devices such as set top boxes. By embracing open standards, AMD hopes to create an ecosystem of interoperable devices that all work together. In a way, Intel is trying to do the same thing by guaranteeing the inter-operability of Viiv devices - but AMD isn't about to slap it's logo all over products from companies that buy into the Live! programme.
Performance and partners
Companies like Aliewnare, ATI, Broadcom, Motorola, Nero, Nvidia and Via are all signed up to AMD's vision of the digital future. It's worth noting, however, that they're all on board for Viiv too, so it rather looks more like a hedging of bets than a ringing endorsement. Microsoft will also deliver a 64-bit version of Windows Media Center for Vista, which AMD believes it will be in a prime position to take advantage of.
AMD believes that its processors offer the best performance and experience for the digital home, and is aligning its vision with the usage of the X2 dual-core processor.
The problem is that, in the digital home, performance is far less important than on the desktop. There's no question that, in terms of raw speed, what AMD has right now is far faster than Intel, especially when it comes to gaming. However, your average consumer wanting a digital home PC needs something that is fast enough
to get the job done, rather than fastest
to brag to mates - what the consumer really cares about is the platform as a whole, including its simplicity, featureset, form factor and software. This is where Intel have an edge with Viiv, because that is where an awful lot of its efforts have gone. AMD's strength is in very fast processors - Intel's, arguably, is creating computing platforms.
Interoperability and thoughts
AMD believes that the PC will be the hub of the digital home, and other devices will connect to it via open standards. That's great, and we'd all like that to be a case. But how are people going to know that this stuff all works together? AMD insist that it is a 'partner' brand for their customers, and that it isn't about to stick logos and stickers all over their products. But surely one of the strengths of the proposed Viiv ecosystem and sticker programme is that customers will know exactly what will work together and will be guaranteed a consistent user experience? Regardless of Intel's ease to work with on the industry side, or their Goliath-like stature over their partners, what we really care about is the consumer experience.
At CES, Intel is launching its platform for the digital home with industry-wide support from both the content and hardware industries. Here, AMD is launching a more conservative 'vision' of the future, with more things to happen over the first half of the year to make it more concrete. It rather looks like the firm has an awful lot of catching up to do if it's going to prevent Viiv becoming the new Centrino.
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