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French Version

PC technology for your living room

You’ve probably heard about a computerized fridge or oven, which takes voice commands and comes with an interactive touch-screen and runs a variation of the Windows operating system.
These appliances, which now seem like something for techno-wackos or very rich people, are paving the way towards a future that is already in the works. The utilization of Intel x86 processors and PC-like motherboards for home appliances is becoming a very exciting option for manufacturers of every household item from your TV, camera, video to your washing machine!

Why? Well, because it bridges the gap between your PC and these appliances thereby enabling digital exchange.

In simple terms, a washing machine with a PC-based motherboard should easily interface with your notebook PC, probably through wireless technology. So you will be able to determine its functionality from your PC, if it comes with a screen you can even browse the web while washing! At the forefront of these developments are motherboard makers, working towards the production of mini-boards that carry ‘quiet’ processors unlike the current Intel Pentiums, which are rather large and noisy!
VIA Technologies has recently announced its EPIA M-Series Mini-ITX mainboard. It’s the smallest, most highly integrated, and lowest power board produced. VIA is targeting it at “the emerging new generation of innovative lifestyle products featuring full PC functionality and consumer electronics design values.” Capitalizing on this new trend, which combines computing technology with consumer electronics, delivers both needed functionality and the aesthetics you would expect to see in a modern living room.

This new motherboard is optimized for digital audio and video applications, which Microsoft are calling the “new killer apps of the digital home.” It uses a special chipset with an integrated hardware MPEG2 decoder for silky smooth DVD playback, six-channel audio for a rich surround sound experience, and USB2.0 and 1394 ports. These motherboards will be configured for fast and easy connectivity to all the latest digital media peripheral devices such as digital cameras and digital camcorders. The VIA board comes with a choice of low power x86 processors, one of which is a ‘fanless’ option that eliminates the need for loud and power-hungry coolers.

Motherboards also support for up to 1GB high-bandwidth SDRAM— all on a highly integrated platform that measures only 17cm x 17cm. They will all be fully compatible with Microsoft and Linux-based operating systems and should be driven by the new wave of low-power, digital media devices and home entertainment equipment. An increasing number of system developers are already working with mainboards such as the latest from VIA which will create a whole new industry of digital entertainment devices. If this motherboard, and ones to follow, are the catalyst for taking the PC platform into the living room, you can only imagine what’s in store for us. Smart appliances and furniture will become the norm.Too much technology?

Perhaps, but wait till you see what it’s like.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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