Morgan Freeman, DirecTV Give Intel's Viiv A Boost

Though Intel has been talking about Viiv for more than a year, CES in Las Vegas marks the first time the Santa Clara-Calif.-based chip maker actually has demonstrated Viiv devices or discussed specifics of the platform. Some of the models are shipping immediately while others will be launched later this quarter.

Models ranged from small footprint PCs the size of a wireless router and devices that looked more like a stereo component to the traditional tower PC. Each must use an Intel dual-core processor. Some used the traditional PentiumD while the smaller formfactors relied on the lower-power Core Duo, which also was launched Thursday at the show. Acer, Sony and Fujitsu were among the traditional PC makers that showed models at Intel's booth. But there were also a number of consumer electronics makers with Viiv systems, including the high-end Onkio, LG and Yamaha. Systems builders also had models on display, including a high-end Viiv aimed at A/V installers from Ace Computer and a small formfactor from EliteGroup Computer Systems.

In addition to requiring a dual-core processor – necessary to decode high-definition video and respond to a variety of media requests from within the home – the system has an instant-on system that works similarly to a typical consumer electronics device. All Viiv systems must additionally be able to be controlled by one remote control and support SCSI RAID.

But while there may be interest in Viiv's hardware specification, most industry observers are watching more carefully the kind of content that will be available to play on these systems. At a CES keynote on Thursday, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini, unveiled a number of content partners, including DirecTV.

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During the keynote, DirecTV President and CEO Chase Carey said satellite provider is working on a set-top box that will work with Viiv systems, giving Viiv customers access to a variety of high-definition content choices.

"What we are doing is taking the DirecTV digital TV signal and putting it into Viiv PCs out there," Otellini said.

Actor Morgan Freeman, who appeared at the Intel keynote last year, came back this year to promote ClickStar, a joint venture between Intel and Freeman's production company, Revelations Entertainment. Freeman said ClickStar would complete its first feature film this year and it would be available for broadband download just weeks after its theatrical release. Freeman, who brought with him onstage actors Tom Hanks and Danny DeVito, said ClickStar gives artists the opportunity to create content with total control.

Added Hanks: "It is an opportunity for creative people… to control material from start to finish and get it to the people who want to see it."

Other content providers who agreed to participate were NBC, which is providing Olympic sports highlights, and ESPN, which also is offering sports highlights. AOL and Yahoo also pledged their respective on-demand services.

Otellini said there currently are 2 million songs, 100,000 music videos, 10,000 television shows and 1,000 movies available for Viiv viewers.

Intel has been focusing particular attention onevangelizing the Viiv platform to systems builders because it lends itself to customization and has a strong service component. A number of systems builders who once focused primarily on corporate customers have spun off separate companies to market Viiv platforms to home installers and digital home customers.