Intel "Grantsdale"

Many pundits claim that home entertainment is the next great frontier for computer technology. That's exactly where Intel Corporation is headed.

On June 17, the chipmaker announced its new "Grantsdale" chipset, intended to boost the audio and imaging capabilities of computers using Intel's Pentium 4 processors. The chipset would not only improve the sound and look of PCs, but would provide faster interfaces for peripherals in addition to support for wireless local area networks.

At a technology demo in San Francisco, Intel teamed up with longtime partner Microsoft Corporation to show off new "media center" computers that usurp many of the functions of digital video recorders, including the ability to record TV shows, and archive digital music libraries and photo collections. Personal computers with such abilities now require the installation of expensive add-on cards, in addition to fairly deep technical skills to make all the software run without a glitch.

"Intel has changed its design paradigm to start not just adding gigaHertz, but to adding features that users demand," COO Paul S. Otellini told industry analysts last month. Granstdale chipsets support a high-speed data protocol known as PCI Express and a memory-doubling technique called DDR2 that make computers much friendlier to data-intense audio and video applications.

New multimedia features will soon begin appearing in affordably priced computers starting at about $700 retail. The first versions should hit stores sometime this month. The move into the home entertainment arena—one that Hewlett Packard and other computer makers have been dabbling with over the past three or four years —represents " the most ambitious make-over of the PC platform in the last 12 years," according to Intel manager William Siu. Intel competitor AMD plans to deliver its own chips supporting PCI Express and DDR 2 beginning later this year.