Hannover (Germany) - The battle for your living room has been going on for quite some time. But despite climbing sales of Windows Media Center PCs, no one can really claim to have convinced the average U.S. consumer to rely on the PC for watching TV. AMD today said that it will take a new approach, called Active TV, to put the Internet on your living room screen.
Sometimes, the world isn't quite as complicated as we make it and simple solutions for certain problems often work much better than if you think around three corners. In home entertainment, we have been listening to the benefits of those high-end multimedia PCs and how they make TV viewing more enjoyable. Fact is however, that PCs are still too complicated to use and set up for TV watching, reducing the value of a Media Center PC, and logos such as Viiv and Live! to marketing bubbles. So, how can the combination of PC and TV become easier to understand? One approach would be to make the PC invisible and AMD has a new idea to do just that.
"Active TV" is basically just software that aims to enable devices that are in your living room anyway to connect to your PC and from there to the Internet. The PC then acts as "middleware" and does all the hard work in the background, such as video decoding, and streams it to the TV or a set top box. As a user, you won't notice that the PC is involved in this process at all; you will be able to customize your Internet menu and program certain Internet channels, ranging from YouTube to more commercial offerings such as Comedy Central content. There is no keyboard involved - all programming and navigating is done via a regular remote control. What makes this approach especially interesting is that you can even put together your own homepage (local, if required) and make content such as family videos easily accessible on your TV.
AMD will take a two-way strategy to make Active TV available to users. While the company will not distribute the software, it will be offering Active TV free of charge to its customers for inclusion in products that integrate, for example, its Theater chips. ATI-developed chips (which are in numerous TVs and set top boxes) will soon integrate Active TV by default, allowing TV designers to build an Ethernet or USB ports into heir devices, which would enable customers to connect to a home network.
The second part of the strategy is a retro-fitting approach: AMD told TG Daily that it will be offering CDs with the software that will load just like a game in a Playstation 2 game console. Provided your PS2 is connected to a home network, the console then will leverage the PC to connect to the Internet and pull video content from the Internet onto the PC screen. AMD said that it will not be selling the CD; instead the software will be provided to hardware developers as "added value."
AMD officials told us that there is nothing that would hold back the company to offer Active TV CDs for Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 consoles as well, but the simple fact that there are 115 million PS2s in the market, with an estimated 15 million connected to a home work, makes this platform the most attractive target at this time. Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 consoles could follow at a later time, AMD said.
Obviously, there appears to be little incentive for AMD to be offering an added value where there is no purchase of AMD hardware involved, which is the case with the PS2 retrofit (AMD said that Active TV will support any processor and chipset.) However, company representatives said that the technology will showcase the value of an AMD dual-core processor.
First Active TV devices will be shown at Cebit this week with Europe being the most important market for the technology right now. Expect to see Active TV devices to become available in the U.S. later this year.