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Intel Enlists Channel for Home Automation Bid
By John Hazard

With the release of the Viiv entertainment computers this week, Intel Corp. will rely on its channel partners to deliver a market still new to them—home users.

The Viiv platform, built on Intel’s Yonah dual-core chip technology and Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, is designed to allow users to control music, video, streaming media and game technology with remote control.

Home automation is a growing market segment that has caught the interest of channel companies in the last couple of years. Many VARs and integrators formerly focused on businesses have been breaking into the emerging market, installing and servicing everything from flat-panel TVs and audio systems to computerized heating and alarm systems.

Intel is working with manufacturers such as MovieLink, Adobe Systems Inc., Napster and TiVo, to develop Viiv-verified applications and services compatible with the system. Channel partners will be integral in delivering custom configured packages of services and components, Intel executives said.

The technology presents a new opportunity for VARs now doing integration work in the corporate and government space. Intel is calling on its VARs and integrators to drive adoption of the technology, the company said.

PointerIntel execs say that its 2006 releases are channel-minded. Click here to read more.

“We think with Viiv and digital home in general the requirements are opportunistically ready for resellers,” said Bill Davidson, Intel’s digital home marketing manager.

“A lot more customization needs to be delivered. It’s not just a box. There are pieces around it that need to be delivered. Whether wireless connectivity or streaming media, it takes the entertainment experience a lot farther along.”

Intel plans to launch specific channel programs later this quarter to push the new products, in addition to a media campaign similar to the $100 million efforts behind Pentium and Centrino, said Frank Raimondi, Intel’s Strategic Channel Alliance Manager.

Intel designed Viiv to be stackable but with plenty of opportunity for value-adds, Raimondi said.

Ace Computers, Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill, a custom system builder that outfits storage systems for the Department of Defense, has built a line of media center computers based on Viiv and launched a home division, Ace Digital Home, to capitalize on the opportunity.

The Channel Insider: Solution Builder

John Samborski, vice president at Ace, said he sees plenty of opportunity for system builders and VARs who make the effort.

“There’s no way to buy this as a canned box and make a living selling with a $5 margin,” he said. “Have to give it features, give it the cool factor, so customers get a premium for the box with touch screens and storage.”

Samborski said he expects local resellers and traditional audio-visual installers to play a vital role in adoption and integration.

The technology has applications in both home entertainment centers and corporate media centers and conference rooms, and Samborski expects many VARs to be enticed by the potential crossover.

“A lot of people may get into this at first for the business aspect and then figure they’ll do a couple of homes to pick up some extra business,” he said.

“I’d like to see businesses adopt it for their use. There is a tremendous demand out there for all of these functions in an office setting. Businesses want more than just a conference room, they want corporate media centers.”



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