Intel's Phone-Media Hub Mash-Up is a Curiously Dated Idea

Intel doesn't think that the home phone is dead—despite some pretty compelling evidence that more and more people are using cellphones as their main telecommunications systems. And it wants to combine a home phone with another idea that hasn't quite caught on yet—the home media hub.

What Intel is effectively trying to do is drive its tiny Atom processor into more devices. The company's vision of the future home phone is as a larger, more capable smartphone. To that end it's put together a reference design that has Atom Z5xx processors at the core, paired with an Intel controller hub, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, card-readers, USB ports, camera, 1GB of memory and 8GB of compact flash as long-term storage.

And it's all designed to fit in box that is 5.4 x 9.6 inches across—with a display. Technically it will have VOIP software as well as traditional landline phone capabilities, and be able to surf the web, play games and perform other typical net-book applications on its specialized Linux Moblin operating system.

The inclusion of HDMI-out is a bit of a puzzler. Maybe Intel thinks the device will also be able to act as a proper media hub? That solution might work in a kitchen entertainment-unit setting, but it's hard to imagine answering a phone call on the same device that's running your main TV.

Since its a reference design, it's far from being a real product, so don't expect to be able to pick one up soon. Although if a manufacturer does get interested, the hardware is already in place, so a design-to-product timescale could be pretty short.

But what I'd love to see Intel pushing, instead of this multi-purpose, but strangely purposeless stand-alone device, is one that makes much more use of distributed wireless infrastructure. We don't particularly want a stand-alone mini-PC that runs both media and telephone services—it's a curiously dated idea. And existing desktops, netbooks and smartphones do most of that stuff already. Intel should be pushing the new "home smartphone" as part of a bigger eco-system, perhaps combined with media-serving plug computers and tiny embedded Atom-powered systems elsewhere in the house: That would be a far more flexible system, likely to meet the needs of our near-future homes much more successfully.

[via Tomshardware]

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5 Comments

  • Ash Sangamneheri

    I agree it doesnt have to be Intel. But it seems in the case of the two technologies - VVOIP and interactive/web TV most major companies are targeting the wrong medium, ie Computers instead of TVs. I think video telephony and interactive TV based services are the two BIG things just waiting to happen... both technologies are mature and just need a more friendly medium. Once its available on TVs the potential for the various types services and interaction to come on top of this framework is just amazing.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Ash. Not a bad point As. But as time rolls on more and more people are becoming happy with using computer tech, and even my Grandfather had a cellphone. The home phone itself is pretty much a dead technology--almost none of my friends use one, even if it comes with their internet package. If TV 2.0 is coming, I suspect it won't be powered by Intel atoms: it'll be more like the next-gen of the ZillionTV (http://www.fastcompany.com/blo...

  • Ash Sangamneheri

    I think its the next big thing!

    If you notice quite a lot of people use Skype or similar VVOIP clients on their PCs/Laptops to make video calls to keep in touch with relatives, friends even colleagues around the world. But ask most non-tech people to setup a VVOIP client on their PCs and they will give up, and in some cases like my Mom, she finds computers too complicated. But, now imagine having a TV or a cable box with an internet connection, webcam and VVOIP (eg Skype) client. If you notice everyone's furniture in the living room is facing the TV, perfect for video calls! Everyone knows how to use a TV remote. If the whole media/communication centre can be easily be used via a TV remote (not some wireless keyboard) video calls will finally take off.

    Now, since we have a webcam in the TV, it could be used for interactive TV programs, where people could sit in their living rooms and participate in game shows, quiz shows, talk shows.. Operah's wet dream! You have the making of TV 2.0 :)

  • Roger Hutchison

    I recall back in the 80's a friend had a TV with the home phone piped through it. It was weird and annoying to have to talk to the TV while everyone else missed what was going on in the program we were all watching.