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Intel's Hard-to-Define Viiv Doesn't Live Up to the Hype

But once you're online with a Viiv computer, it's far easier to find ads touting this wealth of Viiv bonuses than any of these extras. That's because they can only be viewed through the Media Center interface's "Online Spotlight" screen-- traditionally a dumping ground for random marketing links.

All of the Viiv-exclusive content that I found on this HP required lengthy program installations that temporarily punted me out of the remote control-driven Media Center interface. (Apparently the concept of preloading this software eluded the folks at Intel and HP.)

The rewards for this work were surpassingly lame. For example, ESPN.com's lure of high-definition video turned out Friday morning to consist of three short clips -- one of which kept looping back to the start after a minute or so -- that filled only a fraction of the screen, as well as nine low-resolution clips taken from the previous night's SportsCenter. Yawn.

The worst experience of all came when I tried to view Intel's own showcase of Viiv content. At first, clicking this button yielded a "Windows Media Center Edition required" error. After rebooting the computer to try again, I was presented with a lengthy license agreement and an ActiveX installation dialog. The subsequent download seemed to stall out when the HP-bundled Norton Internet Security firewall warned that "EntriqMediaServer" was a high-risk program that it should always block.

Naturally, that was a Viiv component. After allowing it to proceed, I could see what I'd been waiting for: pointers to Viiv content that I'd already seen and discounts and coupons (such as $20 of free rentals at the Movielink site) that combined would not add up to the premium you'd likely pay for a Viiv machine.

Intel says Viiv will mean much more in the future. For example, the coming movie "10 Items or Less" will be sold as a digital download to Viiv owners within weeks of its debut in theaters. And in the second half of this year, Intel says Viiv computers will be joined by Viiv set-top boxes and networking devices, allowing people to watch Web video on their TVs. And we may also see smaller Viiv computers that depart from standard-issue PC design.

But in the meantime, Intel is only embarrassing itself with its half-witted hucksterism for Viiv.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro atrob@twp.com.


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