Viiv (pronounced "five") is a new home-entertainment platform. After ignoring what I thought was fairly obvious for the past five years, the company is finally realizing that its star is attached to microprocessor-based media hubs in the living room.
By using the Napa platform, a new dual-core laptop chip and chipset that's part of the latest Centrino technology, PC form factors can shrink to attractive sizes and shapes that fit better in the living room or TV den. Napa generates much less heat than a Pentium 4, so the Viiv PCs can be quieter and smaller. But Pentium 4's can be used in Viiv's too. The past and next generation of chipsets -- 945, 955 and now 975 provide the I/O. That means high-definition audio is standard. More than 110 PC companies will introduce Viiv PCs in the first quarter of 2006.
Microsoft is a key technology partner because Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) 2005 is the preferred operating system. But Intel has also created digital rights management glue software that allows content providers and OEMs to avoid Microsoft's proprietary DRM.
If you have been one of the 6.5 million owners of a PC with MCE 2005, Viiv is a ho-hum product brand launch. But the impact on the industry will be great, nonetheless. The reason is that Intel and Microsoft have cajoled Hollywood into allowing much more content to move into and about our homes on networks. As a result, TV and movie video whizzing over the 'Net and around our homes will be routine in five years.
And lest you think I have missed the 800-pound content gorilla in the corner, fear not. The first Apple products based on Intel processors will be announced at Macworld this week. To Intel's bottom line, it doesn't matter whether they carry the Intel Viiv logo or not -- and I am betting they do not. Apple will be one of Intel's allies in opening up the digital living room.