DISCover unveils new partners, console prototypes

DISCover demonstrates new "proof of concept" prototypes and shipping models from Apex, Alienware, ABS, Onkyo, and Teac.

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At the E3 show today, Digital Interactive Systems Corporation (DISC) unveiled several new prototype DISCover game consoles from hardware partners Alienware, ABS, Onkyo, and Teac. The DISCover game console combines the functionality of a PVR (personal video recorder) and media player with a game console that can play PC game titles on a living room entertainment system.

Digital Interactive Systems developed the "Drop & Play" software engine that allows users to play PC games on the DISCover game console. Simply drop a regular PC game disc into the system, and the console automatically installs the game for you. The console will then automatically launch the game whenever you insert the game disc into the machine. The console uses an embedded version of Windows XP, and a third-party application will handle downloads for game patches and mods.

Digital Interactive Systems doesn’t actually produce the game console hardware. The company instead licenses its "Drop & Play" technology to different hardware manufacturers who then produce and market their own DISCover console systems. Hardware performance levels for DISCover game consoles will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, since the game consoles can essentially be assembled from off-the-shelf PC hardware equipment.

The first DISCover console debuted at this year's CES 2004 trade show, where Apex Digital Inc. introduced the ApeXtreme DISCover game console. The ApeXtreme console should be first to market, reaching consumers in late Q3 2004. Several more hardware partners had prototype DISCover game systems on display in DISCover’s E3 booth. Exact hardware specifications were not available, since most of the units were meant to be proof of concept models that may or may not make it to production stage.

High-performance-desktop and mobile-PC manufacturer Alienware showed its new DISCover-enabled DHS line of digital home entertainment systems today at E3. Alienware’s new DHS series will represent a combination of a Windows XP Media PC and a DISCover game console, giving users personal video recorder technology on a home theater-based PC and offering the ability to play PC games on home television sets. The Intel Pentium 4-based DHS system line will come in a black, “media”-style case chassis, which is a horizontal case designed to sit in a home theater equipment rack. Another concept system, based on Tekpanel technology, featured a large, widescreen TFTLCD monitor with computer hardware built directly into the five-inch-wide monitor housing.

System-builder ABS Computer Technologies had two different prototype DISCover game consoles on display. One ABS system featured an Athlon 64 FX-based DISCover console in a “media” case chassis, and another ABS prototype took the form of an Athlon 64 system in a MicroATX Antec Aria case. Onkyo and Teac also had “media”-style prototypes on display that showed off the hardware’s functionality in media applications available outside of PC gaming, which includes the ability to store, manage, and display digital images as well as audio files.

Graphics company ATI also had a couple DISCover prototypes on display. No, the graphics chip manufacturer isn’t moving into the game console market. ATI just wanted to demonstrate how DISCover consoles can leverage ATI-based graphics technology. One system featured a Shuttle ST61G4 case and an ATI Radeon 9800 graphics card, which ran a racing game that used a USB Logitech Racing Wheel. Another system, stationed in a mock children’s room (complete with Mickey Mouse television), featured an extremely small DISCover console that ran on an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics chip while it played a “Candyland” PC title.

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