CES - AMD Live! goes mobile, faces off against competition

As the chip vendor unveiled a notebook version of its AMD Live package, AMD is up against plenty of rival digital media platform providers.

Continuing to chase the grail of a media center PC, AMD announced a notebook version of its AMD Live package, which the company had launched for desktop users in mid-2006.

In making the move, AMD faces plenty of competition. Sharing digital media throughout the home is a major theme of the International Consumer Electronics Show. Companies launching similar products range from Intel with its Viiv bundle to LG Electronics MobileComm USA with its VX9400 mobile phone, capable of playing wireless, live television signals.

"The PC is not replacing other boxes in your home, but should enhance them," AMD's director of consumer marketing, Aaron Feen, said. "What people want is lots of high-def channels they can quickly flip through, and the best way to do that is through the current methods -- broadcast, cable and satellite. A PC lets you make the TV more interactive, or trade content to another device."

An AMD Live PC can grab content off the Web, reformat it and display it on another player. That means a user could store video to replay on a TV, video iPod or Zen handheld. Customers can also make their TV screens more interactive by forwarding their Internet chat box to their TV screen, and discuss shows with friends remotely.

Bringing the technology to market is a challenge. As a chip manufacturer, AMD doesn't actually build the AMD Live PC, it specifies the needed hardware components and arranges partnerships. For instance, the company is offering 25GB of free storage through its business partner Streamload. Likewise, AMD has set the laptop to work with the codec algorithms of European set-top box vendor Worldsat. That means the product will work only in Europe until AMD can arrange similar links in other regions.

The AMD Live notebook will hit markets during the first quarter, with some notebook vendors launching products within 30 days. At CES, Fujitsu Siemens Computers (Holding) BV announced that its AMILO Xa 1526 high-performance consumer notebook will use the AMD Live package.

A notebook must be fairly powerful to reformat video content from the Web-type Flash standard to MPG2, a decompression algorithm used in many set-top boxes. That is a similar problem faced by PC vendors who want to run Microsoft's new Windows Vista OS, with its heavy reliance on graphics processors and memory flow.

In fact, an AMD Live notebook and a Vista notebook would look very similar. To make its AMD Live system work, AMD has specified a dual-core processor (the system is optimised for AMD's own Turion 64 X2), 1GB memory, the Vista Premium OS and high-end graphics capability.

Although those fast components can add up to a more expensive machine, AMD thinks this iteration of the media-center PC will be a hit with buyers.

"Consumers have shifted from asking which is the most powerful computer, to which will let me get the most out of my photos, music and movies," Feen said. "And that's not just [those aged] 18 and under, but 35 and under, 60 and under, who ask this."

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Ben Ames

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