CeBIT 2006: AMD Live!

AMD shows off its free multi-platform sotware that converts set top boxes in to a media thin client..

At a meeting today with AMD, the concept of AMD Live! was explained in full to me. I’m usually pretty sceptical of ideas that are supposedly “open standards” promoted by a commercial company, but this one won me over.

AMD has a bit of beef with the whole concept putting a machine in the living room. Right back to my K5 days I’ve always had one machine providing my entertainment, with TV, music and games. Even with the advent of MCE, nothing has changed for me except that I use Fedora Linux box as a file/mail/voip server. So I can relate to its angle.

Essentially, AMD is promoting the use of set top boxes as thin clients in the living room. AMD is providing a free suite of software that works on both AMD and Intel platforms, this will transcode any video format to MPEG2 and transmit it over Ethernet. This could be wireless, Ethernet over the power line or wired in directly. Naturally, set top boxes can cope with MPEG2 natively because of the nature of Digital TV. However, a firmware upgrade will be necessary to support the new features – and of course a set top box with Ethernet, which is fairly rare.

The set up we saw has two main features. The first was it taking advantage of file sharing across Ethernet to play remote files. This is not a new concept and was most likely specific to that particular set top box. The best feature however, which is designed to work with any set top box, was the remote monitor. AMD’s software encoded a front end (similar to MCE) in to MPEG2, giving you a complete control of videos and photos on your machine. Commands from the remote control were then being sent through the set top box to control the interface. Just think VNC in MPEG2 and you have the picture.

Although there are no such devices introduced yet, I imagine a good product would be a middle-man between a standard DVB-T set top box and Ethernet that basically converts raw MPEG-2 into a Digital TV Channel. That way, any set top box could tune in to the remote desktop without so much as a firmware upgrade.

As mentioned, this software and the concept is an open standard and will work on any platform – even Intel! Not only that but it will be freely available from the AMD website. Naturally, AMD are promoting X2, but this is only really necessary if you plan on using your machine at the same time as watching videos on your TV. If you have a fairly recent machine, say 3000+, then you should be good to go.

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing this released as it would be a damn sight cheaper than a Viiv set up.

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