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Intel Viiv and AMD Live Won't Drive PC Sales

Business Week reports that seeking a marketing wedge amid a download-crazy consumer populace, Intel rolled out the 'Viiv' label after an overhaul of its branding strategy late last year following the ascendancy of Chief Executive Paul Otellini.

It remains to be seen how strongly the Viiv value proposition is resonating with consumers, but it's apparently not a big hit with the one major PC vendor, Dell. The company, a newly minted customer of Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), announced new machines recently sporting AMD's competing media PC platform, AMD 'Live,' though it also continues to sell some Viiv systems.

Luckily for Intel, Viiv has made inroads with HP, the company that sells more Media Center PCs than anyone else. Its retail lineup includes two Intel Viiv machines, two AMD Live machines, and one that uses neither.

Viiv also could benefit from rising demand for PCs loaded with Microsoft's Media Center software, which are finally gaining traction after a slow start back in 2002. Researcher IDC expects nearly 6 million Media Center PCs to sell by the end of the year -- nearly twice as many as in 2004. IDC doesn't say how many of those will include Viiv or Live, and so I'm left wondering.

And, while that segment of the business shows signs of growing faster than the overall consumer PC market, it still represents tepid demand. IDC analyst David Dauod says 6.6 percent of all PCs sold to consumers this year will be Media Center PCs.

Apparently Intel Viiv and AMD Live do have some things in common -- both appear to be rather heavy on technology and branding content, but very light on meaningful new feature differentiation that enables user-friendly system design innovations.

Beyond the extra processing power, 'remote control ready' capability, and 'bundled software' that is freely available directly from the source (Pure Networks, Orb Networks, etc.), it's not clear to me exactly where there's value-added benefit that is worthy of a new Intel or AMD brand name extension. Neither company seems to have attempted tackling the already known multimedia PC connectivity, configuration or usability problems that exist.

Therefore, I seriously question if both company's marketing efforts have oversold the brand promise -- meaning, will a mainstream consumer really gain any advantage of device or software simplicity, by design? If not, then why on earth wasn't product design enhancement given a higher priority?

Moreover, will systems built around either of these two chipsets result in fewer puzzled mainstream consumers making frequent help requests to a PC manufacturer's technical support centers? Based upon the PC system designs that I’ve seen thus far, I for one am not convinced.

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