CES - Dell urges telecom firms to deliver fiber to homes

In his CES keynote, Michael Dell urged telecom firms to deliver fiber-optic broadband to homes to enable better media center PCs

The missing pieces that will allow consumers to use their PCs as digital media hubs are fiber-based broadband links to the home and seamless integration of multiple devices, Dell Chairman Michael Dell said on Tuesday.

"Customers say they want to use their PCs for digital home entertainment, but it really hasn't caught on because of two things; broadband isn't where it needs to be for reliable performance, and the industry hasn't made it easy for devices to work together," Dell said in his keynote address to attendees at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

To fix the bandwidth problem, Dell urged telecom companies to lay fiber-optic broadband Internet links to homes, something Verizon Communications Inc. is offering through a pilot program in the U.S., he said. And to improve device integration, hardware vendors should take their inspiration from Sling Media, whose Slingbox enables users to share video or music content between different platforms, he said.

In the meantime, Dell unveiled a Home Media Suite desktop PC that offers vast storage capacity and a 27-inch widescreen display. The XPS 410 has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2G bytes of memory, 1T byte RAID storage array, Microsoft Windows Vista OS and a digital cable TV tuner. Dell has plenty of competition in trying to reach customers converging their TV and other media onto a home PC. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), the rival that recently overtook Dell as the world's largest PC vendor, also launched a memory-laden, large-screen desktop with TV tuner at the show.

Dell did not use his keynote to suggest new solutions for company problems such as delayed earnings reports due to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accounting investigation, or the loss of market share to HP.

Rather, he described business initiatives like Dell Datasafe, a service to help customers migrate their data from current PCs to newly purchased computers by storing their data briefly on Dell's servers, then downloading it to the new machine. Dell also announced an environmental plan called "Plant a tree for me" that gives customers the option to donate an extra US$2 when they buy a Dell notebook or US$6 for a desktop to plant new trees that will absorb carbon dioxide, thus offsetting future greenhouse gas emissions. That service will launch in the U.S. in February and be available worldwide by April.

Finally, Dell unveiled a gaming PC aimed at the world's 12.5 million players of massive multiplayer online games. The XPS 710 H2C features powerful processors and video cards whose shimmering heat is absorbed through two stages of cooling; both a radiator-type liquid-to-air heat exchanger and a ceramic-based thermoelectric cooling module. The product is available worldwide for US$5,499.

The Home Media Suite will launch in the U.S. this month, as soon as Microsoft releases its Vista OS.

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