As you may know, AMD Live! is the number-two PC processor maker's digital home initiative and answer to Intel's Viiv. As usual, AMD hasn't sought to counter an Intel branding initiative by matching it dollar for dollar in marketing budget. Instead, AMD has pursued with a more varied and nebulous series of digital-home-related initiatives under the AMD Live! banner. AMD Live!-compliant PCs are available in the market, but many of them are traditional desktop PCs with Windows Media Center installed, not home-theater PC-style systems intended for the living room. Other components of the Live! strategy involve things like nudging set-top box makers to include media extender functionality in the products they provide to cable companies.
At CES this year, AMD is continuing this trajectory with its Live! brand by extending the Live! stamp to notebook PCs and other types of devices. AMD says bringing the multimedia-centric Live! brand to notebook PCs makes sense, because consumers "want to know how to get more out of photos, music, and movies." Live!-compliant notebooks will be "powered by AMD Turion(tm) 64 X2 dual-core mobile technology" (also known as microprocessors.) These laptop PCs will take their place in what AMD envisions as a networked constellation of PCs and consumer electronics devices that cooperate together in various ways to deliver content in the digital home.
A Live! Cinema mock-up.
The company hasn't entirely given up on PC-derived boxes in the living room, though. AMD is demonstrating a new reference design that it has dubbed the AMD Live! Home Cinema, and it looks somewhat promising. This device puts a Media Center PC into a custom case that looks like a set-top box or a piece of stereo equipment. The system is equipped with AMD's ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner
and also packs a DVD burner and a digital audio amplifier. The presence of all of these components in one box means the Live! Home Cinema should be able to replace a host of other boxes at once: DVD player, DVR, set-top cable box, and amplifier. And, err, WebTV, I guess. The goal is to pitch this box as cutting down on clutter under the TV and reducing the number of remote controls the consumer needs to use. AMD doesn't expect to see products based on this design announced at CES, but it does expect PC makers to pledge support for the concept, with products to come in the first or second quarters of 2007.
HP's MediaSmart Server. Source: AMD.
AMD has developed another reference design it calls the AMD Live! Home Media Server, and HP has announced the MediaSmart Server
based on this design. This machine has no monitor or keyboard, and functions more like a glorified home NAS, providing networked storage and services for digital entertainment. This relatively compact box is designed to sit quietly in the room looking stylish. The MediaSmart runs a new OS and software combo known as Windows Home Server and has a dual-core AMD CPU, giving it enough power and smarts to do some useful things automatically, like making backups of digital photos or pushing newly recorded TV shows to a laptop for on-the-go viewing. The MediaSmart box has multiple drive bays and USB ports available for storage expansion.
Finally, AMD has added some additional applications to its freely downloadable suite of AMD Live! software. The six new apps include a secure network setup wizard, a video compression tool, and a remote access utility.