LAS VEGAS - This is the year, technology executives believe, that the personal computer takes over the living room.
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's biggest technology convention, top industry leaders said computers are becoming cheap and user-friendly enough for most households to manage.
Add to that the fact that most music and video is digital. Executives believe that those trends have made computers better able to entertain consumers than traditional machines such as televisions and hi-fi speaker systems.
Gesturing at an entertainment unit filled with audio equipment, a DVD player, a personal video recorder and other technology, Intel Corp. Chief Executive Paul Otellini challenged the industry to give consumers a better way to manage their fun.
"The sign of a digital home is not going to be how many of these you have stacked in a rack, but how few," he said in a speech at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Intel will start making chips for consumer electronics devices, such as televisions, to get ready for the change, Otellini said. Other computer technology companies are also continuing their push to compete in the same category as traditional electronics makers.
Dell Inc. Chief Executive Michael Dell showed several of the company's latest devices, including liquid-crystal-display televisions and a music player. Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Carly Fiorina announced that the company would develop a line of entertainment-center PCs, fashioned to look less like PCs and more like the components of a stereo system.
Hewlett-Packard computers using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Center software will start including Apple's iTunes music downloading software in a new model. HP will start using its own remote-control driven software along with iTunes in home-entertainment devices debuting later this year.
"Holiday '04 is going to be a very big digital entertainment season," said Jim McDonnell, vice president of sales and marketing for Hewlett-Packard's personal systems group.