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There’s no place like home for HP

Tech-mix is served at CES confab

LAS VEGAS — Computer maker Hewlett Packard and chip manufacturer Intel both debuted their moves into what has become the hottest market at the Consumer Electronics Show — home networking.

HP announced its new strategy to manage a networked home and Intel said it will power a new line of “entertainment PCs” that connect directly to televisions.

At the same time, Real Networks and IBM announced a partnership to help manage content for those who want to enter the online distribution market.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina revealed her company’s plans during a star-studded keynote address Thursday evening that featured appearances by Dr. Dre, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow, Ben Affleck, and Jimmy Iovine. Central to HP’s home networking move is a new entertainment hub that will act as a TiVo-like device, recording and storing television programs, as well as holding digital photos and music and connecting to online music and movie services. Device, which debuts in the fall, will also serve as the connector to move content between the TV, PCs, and handheld devices.

Screen time

It’s designed to work with a new line of LCD and plasma television screens HP is producing, as well as its PCs that use Microsoft Windows Media Center software for managing digital content.

Fiorina also signaled a strong desire to work with the entertainment industry in allaying its piracy concerns, announcing that all HP devices will be designed to prevent illegal copying, including support for the controversial broadcast flag that prevents copying of digital TV. Company will also reveal later this year a new technology for encrypting recorded content.

Conflicts between studios fearful of piracy and computer manufacturers that want to provide maximum flexibility to customers have been one of the central reasons the long-promised networked home has taken so long to develop.

“Going forward, we will actively promote the interoperability of content protection technologies to ensure that content protection becomes the enabler it was intended to be, not the obstacle to compelling content that many fear,” she said.

HP is one of many companies at CES to announce new plans for home networking, a list that grew to include chipmaker Intel, which announced that integrating digital home devices will be its next major initiative.

Intel inside

“Our goal is to eliminate boundaries between electronic devices inside and outside the home and we’re working with the PC and consumer electronics industries to make this a reality,” Intel President Paul Ottelini said in a speech Thursday. “For Intel in 2004, this effort will receive as much focus as the work we did last year to advance wireless technologies for mobile computing.”

Along with a previously announced $200 million investment fund to develop home networking technologies (Daily Variety, Jan. 7), company is powering a new line of “entertainment PCs” that connect directly to television screens to manage and share digital content. Device, which will come out mid-year from a variety of manufacturers, will connect wirelessly to PCs, come with a TV tuner, and operate with a remote control.

While most of the news at CES has focused on consumers’ homes, digital media company Real Networks and IBM made news behind the scenes, announcing a partnership to allow content owners to create Internet audio- and video-on-demand services.

Service will utilize Real’s newly upgraded digital media codec and IBM middleware to provide streaming, distribution, content protection, and billing services all together. Speaking to CES attendees on Friday, Real CEO Rob Glaser said he hoped it would help encourage Hollywood to further develop its digital distribution, which he asserted has been too slow to grow and leaves the industry in danger of falling prey to mass piracy. “The rate and pace of innovation are not what they need to be to avoid Napsterization,” he said, pointing to constraints in the industry-sponsored Movielink service, among other problems. “While this will work out eventually, the future path is in question for now.”

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