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What Happened to Media PCs? 371

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gone-the-way-of-the-laser-disc dept.
timrichardson writes to tell us that Slate is asking what happened to the promises of a living room PC? The lack of any news at Apple's WWDC prompted the author to look at the promises made at the Consumer Electronics Show a la Viiv and other "uber-consoles" in addition to the launch of Apple's downloadable videos and "couch-surfing remote." While some pundits blame the state of the technology this article claims that the PC and the TV provide two very different roles that aren't going to converge anytime soon.
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What Happened to Media PCs?

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  • Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jazir1979 (637570) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:33AM (#15864034)
    I think the demand simply isn't there, I wouldn't blame the technology. The majority of people wouldn't see the point, or understand the possibilities. Many people still struggle with TV remotes...

    By and large, people want to spend money on their plasma displays, not "uber-consoles".
  • by Kawahee (901497) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:35AM (#15864047) Homepage Journal
    What happened to the MP3 phones? They lost out to devices that can do the job better and cheaper. The same with media PC's. Given the size restrictions, media PC's performance are heavily watered down and harder to interface with (a remote that gives you little control or a mouse on a couch), so when you expect a full on media experience you instead get a mediocre one. You could buy a decent home theater system that's more powerful for around the same price, sans PC functionality.
  • by Jarnis (266190) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:36AM (#15864050)
    Dunno about other markets, but in Finland name brand media PCs keeled over and died due to immense suckage of Windows Media Center Edition.

    - No official support for DVB-C cards (large chunk of the country gets TV using cable, and DVB-C), cutting down potential market
    - No support for DVB subtitling (used by finnish national broadcasting company YLE), decimating the leftover market
    - Generally crappy DVB support - and analog transmissions end next year over here
    - Horrendously complicated install on selfbuilt systems (whitebox PCs are more common over here than in many other countries) coupled with difficulties in actually obtainining MCE legally without buying an OEM system.

    Most 'Media PCs' built over here tend to be selfbuilt, using linux or WinXP with separate software, and it's non-trivial to set one up, so they are still a niche market.

    I'm sure the big name OEMs will try again when they get Vista with MCE features, and proper DVB-T/DVB-C and DVB subtitling support.
  • CODECs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:37AM (#15864054) Homepage Journal
    Too many of them.

    Most video files are problematic.... they uses wrappers (AVI, QT) so most people throw any CODEC they feel like using (DivX 3 for video, VBR MP3 for audio even though the AVI specs don't really allow it AFAIK) and we end up with a mess of incompatible files unless you install 500 different CODECs.

    Screw AVI, screw Quicktime. Use MPEG-4/H.264 and AAC. Depending on the video size, bitrate and all, they can play on OS X, Windows, Linux, PSP, GBA (with Play-Yan micro), PDAs, etc.

    Thanks in advance.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:44AM (#15864069) Homepage Journal
    For computing in the den, give me a laptop.

    For my entertainment-center, give me a DVR or something similar.

    Sure, they are both computers on the inside, but for most "computing" tasks like email, office work, etc. I'd rather use a laptop or desktop, not stare at a screen several meters away.

    I can think of one major exception: anything that involves two people sharing a single physical display, such as videoconferencing or playing a multi-player game.
  • Quite simply... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by loraksus (171574) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:03AM (#15864120) Homepage
    The software out there blows. Closed / open source, free, bundled or pay, none of it is very good. The tv based interfaces are clumsy at best and I have not set up a single media box where everything worked right of the box (and I've set up about 12 of them in the last few years). Always a fucking problem.
    Heck, some apps STILL have issues with A/V sync and somew store the video in a retarded format like raw avi or some weird "nothing else can play this because we are twats" custom format. Don't even get me started on the joy that is setting up HD.
    DVRs are much, much more attractive and people will cough up the extra few bucks to get one.

    I use a hauppague card with their shitty software (and it is shitty, clumsy to use unless you have a keyboard and monitor, sucks cpu cycles when it captures to mpeg (the other formats except for raw avi never worked properly, hitting control alt delete will kill your recording, but it does record when I tell it, which is a lot more than I can say for the many other apps I've tried)

    The "software" bundled with nero 7 was the last thing I tried, didn't even make it past channel detection before dying.

    If you know of a good program, please post it. Showshifter was decent for a while and had promise until some company bought it and fucked it up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:03AM (#15864123)
    I completely agree, this is spot on. I think the real reason is cost. Most people do not have HDTV. Very few actually have a LCD or plasma. Most individuals are just beginning to move to flat CRT technology. There really is a fundamental disconnect between most of America (world) and the technologically informed.

    If they don't have these technologies, do you think they will have a DVR. Yes, but only if it is provided by their cable company. Tivo is too expensive and Media Center is way out of range. People that do have them are unlikely to use them because of the possibility of lightning damage (its an expensive computer)
  • Re:Quite simply... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by cyberspittle (519754) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:05AM (#15864129) Homepage
    Been there, done that. That is what happened to the media PC. I think people who wnated to do it, did it. The rest never liked the idea in the 1st place. Next subject Slashdot!
  • Re:Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:22AM (#15864174) Homepage Journal
    I think the demand simply isn't there, I wouldn't blame the technology.

    That's a big part of it I think, though I believe that the demand for what media PCs offer exists; however, instead of buying a PC that's dedicated to the TV, I think consumers are going more for the TiVo-like boxes which offer most functionality for fewer dollars and simpler setup. I can attest that there's less a chance that grandma will bork the TiVo than the Windows Media Center PC.

    In addition, I'd bet that most people (except those geeks among us with a few extra computers laying around who know about extras like old video game ROMs, MythTV, weather forecasts, etc.) would just assume leave the PC out of the family/entertainment room. By placing it elsewhere it means that somebody can use the computer without monopolizing the TV and vice-versa. Until it becomes standard to have two new computers in the average home, I think you'll continue to see a separation of PC and TV.
  • by dabadab (126782) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:01AM (#15864275)
    I do not know in which parallel universe do you live but in this one MP3 phones are here to stay. Most of the newer phones are capable of playing back mp3 and can be expanded with memory cards, SE's Walkman line goes strong, Nokia also have a "musicphone" in their N-series (and (almost?) all the S40 and higher phones are capable of mp3 playback).
    So, mp3 phones are quite well, thank you.
  • Re:TV out (Score:3, Insightful)

    by montyzooooma (853414) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:39AM (#15864365)
    "I'm sure many home users would love to have the power of MythTV, but until we can build a MythTV box for $300 and make it plug-and-play and config-free, it simply won't take off in the mainstream."

    And it has to be the same form factor as the rest of our AV gear. Some of the so-called HTPC cases out there are a joke. Traditional sized desktops with a shiny finish and some extra flashing lights. Not what I want to be setting onto my AMP, under my amp, where the hell do I put it??

  • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:42AM (#15864377) Homepage Journal
    Slate gives us:

    If people actually wanted Viiv-like products, there'd be a lot more do-it-yourself versions while we're waiting for Intel. If the problem were a lack of software, there'd be plenty of open-source projects by impatient hackersthat's how we got Napster and BitTorrent. But the geeks seem uninterested. Where are the obsessive bloggers? The forum feuds? The amateur meetups? Show me any truly hot technology, and I'll show you 100,000 guys who can't wait to tell you about it. Has anyone bored you to death talking about their Media Center PC lately?

    This is a joke, right?

    People are talking, but you can't do it with free software. Just telling people how will get you tossed in jail, thanks to the DMCA and greedy big media. Rather than buy a big screen TV, I'd love to have a projector and stereo hooked up to computer. I've already got my music collection digitized. The access and convenience of Amarok are awesome. It would be great to do the same thing with movies. The cost of a projector is about the same as a big TV, but it's much more portable and gives better quality. The problem is CSS. I can't watch or archive DVD movies with my software. It's against the law to distribute software that would let me in the US or even tell people what sites in countries with sane laws have it.

    Did they name the article "Myth" [mythtv.org] for kicks or what? So many people talk about Mythtv, it's hard to believe a Slate Editor has not heard of it. It even made it into the EFF's "Corruptables" video.

    You can do it with non free software, sort of. The author mentions the miserable death of ViiV. Paul Boutin did not receive his promissed test model and wonders why. He must have missed this Washington Post review [washingtonpost.com] where the damn thing did not work at all because of all the DRM nonsense. You might be able to watch current DVDs if you fall all the way back to Windoze 98SE and have a stash of the now illegal Xcopy and other software required. The network and file system restrictions of such a computer would make most people cry, but it's the easiest route for honest people. People unafraid of the law have been swapping movies almost forever, but the effort and risks are way to great for "normal" people who will just rent a video. Yes, you can even find software that works with your free software, it's just a huge pain all around and you will again be stuck with a static system because upgrades will break it. Contraband is not free, it's not convenient and it's hard to trust.

    Big Media is the root cause. They do not want their media on computers they don't have complete control over. They want it to act like a cable box, to shove adds down your throat, tell you what you can watch and when and how much you will pay for it all. Given that most media buffs already have a cable box and all the gear, the computer version that does not work looks really lame and big media is happy. There will be no video Napster, they think.The customer is not happy, too bad.

    This represents a tremendous opportunity for independent media and it's why Net Neutrality is such a big deal. Already, artists can get great viewings on youtube, google video and other sites. These are just the beginning because they rely on flash and other crappy software. The quality sucks and you can't save them without a lot of effort that's liable to lace your computer with malware. The potential of the media are better seen with stuff like Star Wreck [starwreck.com], a free, full length movie. It's a big file and independent productions are going to stay that way due to patents on video streaming and more advanced compression routines. "So what", you might ask, "I've got broadband." That's where Net Neutrality comes in and independent media gets the shaft. Warner Brothers, which so badly mangled AOL and squandered their c

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @03:56AM (#15864412) Journal
    Same thing that happened to a lot of electronics. The parts got cheaper.

    When electric moters were new, the idea was that you'd buy an electric motor and plug it intoi your labour saving devices. Mass production made electric motors cheap enough that this was no longer necessary.

    The "Media PC" is similar. The killer app is recording TV shows. Downloading still isn't really mainstream. A PVR will do this for you, and a cheap mp3 player will play music. This leaves the general purpose PC free to do other stuff. A proper desktop PC or laptop can be used for the internet or for gaming. People seem not to like a device that does too much.
  • by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:10AM (#15864437) Homepage
    When you turn on a TV, you expect it to work. Immediately. No loading screens, no choosing applications, and a relatively minimal amount of button pressing and stuff to figure out.

    Computers tend not to deliver on these sorts of things, and will most likely only make the TV experience MORE complicated.

    Take the "MOXI" DVR for example. I've had some experience with this atrocity. Some particular things about it that bother me, that really aren't an issue with simpler set-top boxes (or with a lack of a set-top box entirely), and that seem to be the way things are going what with the pretty interfaces...
    - Very long channel-changing lag
    - Necessity to hit TWO buttons (with a pause of up to 3 seconds between) to choose a program from the listings
    - Pretty pictures of the channel names, but no actual station name text (making it anyone's guess which local channel is assigned to which)
    - V-Chip lockouts that take non-rated documentaries, independents, and foreign films as collateral damage
    - Sound effects (thankfully they can be disabled)
    - The interface is so pretty, why put a program grid in? Instead, you can only see at a glance what is showing at this exact moment, needing to hover and wait for a load to see what's next on each channel.
    - Cooling fan that runs 24/7
    - 3-5 minute reboot time, should you need to reboot (what, reboot a system that's been on for months straight?)
    - Lack of a "close on-screen displays" button or mechanism... gotta just wait for it to go away.
    - Very deep menu-digging necessary for some features

    My point is that as TV stuff makes its way toward greater computerization, it is very easy to lose the easy-access TV mindset and make a totally user-hostile experience in the name of gradients, pretty buttons, lots of options, and "oh cool!" features. I get upset with the channel-change delay of digital cable compared to analog cable... adding a computer to the mix will almost always compound the problem. It's irritating enough using different TVs with remote control buttons in slightly different locations.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:47AM (#15864520) Journal

    There really is a fundamental disconnect between most of America (world) and the technologically informed.

    No, the fundamental disconnect is between techno-fetishist nerds and those still anchored in reality.

    The mistake that techno-fetishists make is assuming that "technologically informed" inherently equals being some techno-fetishist nerd. You know the kind. The kind that thinks that a computer automatically makes everything better, for no other reason than being a computer. And thus actually thinks that it's a good idea to have a web server on his fridge, so he can check the temperature in it from work. Or than it's a good, nay, a _great_ idea to slap a browser and an LCD display on a microwave oven so you can surf on it (supposedly for recipes) while you heat your TV dinner in it. (Don't laugh. Some company came up with just that product. Literally.)

    But mostly just because. Because in their mind the computer is a purpose in and by itself, and everything else is just a means and an excuse to interact with the oh-so-cool computer.

    It doesn't equal. There are plenty of us for whom the computer is just a tool, like any other tool. And just as you don't need a hammer to cook your dinner, you don't need a web browser for it either.

    There are plenty of cheaper gadgets which do one job well, and which don't really need a pimped-up gaming rig to do.

    E.g., a fridge is just a fridge. All it needs is a thermostat. I don't need to check its temperature over the internet every hour. I just need the confidence that it has a simple and robust thermostat that will work for years or decades without any need to babysit it. The simpler and lower tech, the better.

    E.g., a microwave oven is just a microwave oven. I don't want to browse for recipes on it. Any recipes I might have in mind have been (A) researched _before_ even buying the ingredients, and it's by definition too late for that at the time of cooking them, and (B) cooked in the normal oven, if it's a recipe worth researching and not just a TV dinner. It doesn't need a web browser and LCD display driving the price up. All I want from it is the peace of mind that if I set it to 15 minutes, it will stop after roughly 15 minutes. It doesn't have to be synchronized to NTP and it doesn't need micro-second accuracy either. As long as it stops somewhere between 14 and 16 minutes, it's ok.

    And so is it with "media" computers or "home theathre" computers too. It's not that people are somehow not "technologically informed", it's that it's such a techno-fetishist use of technology. To record a show, even an ancient VCR is enough. (Though you might go for a DVD recorder nowadays.) To watch a rented DVD with your family, you only need a DVD player. (If you got a DVD recorder at the previous step, it will have that included.) To have some music in your living room, you just need a CD player. (And again, the DVD player or recorder from the previous step, it might have that included.) You don't need an expensive renamed gaming rig to do those, and you don't need the whirring of its fans and hard drives while you watch a movie.

    Even with TVs, it's not that anyone is "technologically uninformed" and doesn't know about HDTV. Trust me, everyone has at least heard that they exist. It's that normal people have other priorities to spend their money on. Sure, a big LCD HDTV screen is nice, _but_ you could use that money on something else instead. That's where those nice big TVs fail for the majority of the population. The improvement exists, but it just isn't worth the cost, or more precisely giving up something else you could use that money on. You can spend the evening in front of an old-fashioned 60 Hz interlaced idiot-box just as well, for a fraction of the cost, and from 10 ft distance it won't look that much worse.

    They're currently just a conspicuous-consumption status-symbol thing. They're like gold watches or pimped-up sports cars at mid-life crisis: something you buy just to show everyo

  • by GrpA (691294) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @05:03AM (#15864548)
    I already have a media PC.

    Like most things, it only works when you want something. A marketting company idea of what makes a media PC is never going to work, because they tend to string together a bunch of daft ideas all centered around controlling the viewer and making money while never giving the user what they want.

    I have a PC set up in the living room. It's for my wife. She hates PCs. So I got her a 37inch LCD with 1366x768 resolution. Resolution doesn't mean much to her. I told her it means a nicer picture.

    Then I built a PC into the stand it sits on. Installed XP and DVB Webscheduler. A TV Antenna, Wireless Keyboard and Mouse.

    That's all you need. Seriously.

    And I never ever turn it off (except for maintenance or rebooting). It's on 24x7 (Webscheduler is a robust platform. Even on XP. Never fails. Never crashes.).

    My wife plays online games on it, because it's on her TV now. She records her TV shows through a web interface, and fast forwards ads using a mouse (She has a remote, but quickly worked out the mouse was fine). She watches normal TV on it. Just by switching to TV mode. Or if it's something she wants to watch and pause, she fires up the recorder and starts recording and watching in real time.

    The kids stream recorded shows to their laptops, because it's *her* TV and Computer, and no one else is allowed to use it if she wants to watch something... (She's very possessive of it). They've worked out they can set the recorder and watch shows over the home network anyway.

    She sends emails. She reads emails. She could watch a video while she does, but she never does, because no one wants to watch a video and send an email.

    And she has a VHS recorder plugged into it. She watches old tapes. She has two DVD drives to watch videos on DVD. She doesn't need two, but if one breaks, she needs one for backup. Don't beleive me? You deal with a crazy woman who can't watch her favourite DVD one night!

    And now she watches movies in higher resolution and hates cable TV because the quality is so poor compared to free-to-air and DVD. And she records all the shows she wants to, because there are no tapes to get old or switch over. She has an electronic program guide to help her select her shows. She even knows how to delete stuff she has watched.

    And she has her own space to use a web-browser to see what the weather is going to be like, check on the latest movies or generally look things up on google. because it's all on her TV.

    When she forgets to set the video, she calls me to do it over my phone (or from work).

    Basically, she's the classic example of a completely wired up (and supported) non-geek. She doesn't care how or why it works, and her IT department (ie, ME!) is always close to find out why she can't get to some website or watch her latest show.

    All in the living room.

    The truth of the matter, was it was only a matter of time until two technologies became common.

    1. A half-decent web-based video recorder. (DVB Webscheduler seems OK for this).
    2. A TV Screen with a VGA/DVI interface and high resolution.

    That's it. Convergence over. Simple and effective.

    I'm not the only one where I work who has done this, as it is becomming a common enough item over here in Australia. A lot of engineers buy a large LCD and do this (and use the same apps). It seems all our wives are using them, which is an acid-test of sorts.

    She also plays music on it. There's a radio tuner as well, but she doesn't use that because she doesn't listen to the radio in that room for some reason.

    The media PC is therefore a pretty simple device, regardless of what MPC and MPCII were supposed to be. The day my wife started using it, I knew it was here. Regardless of what the marketting companies thought of it.

    She has a normal TV also... She refuses to use it, unless there's no other option and seeing her sitting on a small cushion in front of the TV with the keyboard and mouse perched on the lip of the stand is now a common sight in the house.

    Oh, and when she takes a shower or cooks dinner, a 37" screen makes a great Battlefield 2 console too ! :)

    The media PC? Mine arrived for Christmas, 2005.

    GrpA.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @05:48AM (#15864627)
    1) Complexity.
    2) Price.

    That's simple, really. The price one is the most obvious, media PCs just aren't cheap enough for most people, even those with higher end setups. A good DVD player, like really good, is $200. An audio/videophile quality one is like $500. You think a media centre PC has a chance against that?

    However even more than that is the complexity. Media gear is all real simple. My DVD player has a simple interface, so simple that it only has 3 buttons on the unit. There's more on the remote, of course, but the 3 are all you really need. Put in disc, press play, movie goes. Done. I suppose, with sufficient messing around, one could make a MCPC that simple, but I've not seen it and remember, the DVD player came that way out of the box.

    Heck my roomate decided to try and mess around with a MCPC. My DVD player plays MPEG-4 videos (Yamaha S657 if you were wondering) but there are limits on it, most notably it doesn't do HD (there are ones that do) and he wanted to mess with that. So he thought to use a PC to replace it. Ya well that didn't last long. Waaaaay too complicated. The PC has gone away and the DVD player continues to be used.

    They must bring down the price, but more importantly things must be simlified if MCPCs are ever going to see more than a token showing.
  • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:10AM (#15864750)
    Nice. Great post. The only thing I'd add is that if media PCs could be made as easy to use as a TV remote (which is unlikely), then they might have some more sales. And it's not because the average person is too stupid to figure out how ot use it otherwise. It's because taking the time to figure it out and/or configure the device is not worth it to them. Single purpose devices are indeed in some cases quite superior.
  • by Secrity (742221) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:57AM (#15864879)
    I don't think that the grandparent was dicussing your situation at all. He was pointing out a very common situation, and your situation is NOT that common. You are not in the target market for the Media PC. The Media PC folks are trying to get a mass market acceptance of their view of the convergence of televions and computers, they do not want people building their own version of Media PCs.
  • by twistedsymphony (956982) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @08:11AM (#15864932) Homepage
    EXACTLY... I can't believe you were the first person here to realize this

    Though I think it's even more simple then that... _DRM_
    The problem with OSs like Windows Media Center is that it's just too damn locked down out of the box it can only play propriatary formats if you want to play anything else people have to hunt down codecs and it still complains/wants to convert everything. I would imagine that if apple ever came out with anything they'd want everything converted to their own propriatary formats. The only USEFUL media center PCs are those based on OSS or hacks such as MythTV or Xbox Media Center.

    I think cost and appearance also add to it as well. If dropping $1500 on a new LCD is a big deal then dropping that much on a Media Center PC that's fairly locked down in it's capabilities is just stupid. An HD-DVD player is a big investment in the home-theater world and it's only $500, to a consumer a simple device to play music and video files and browse the web should be LESS then that.

    As for Appearance home theater people don't want some hulking plastic PC tower sitting in their rack.. heck they don't even FIT properly in a home theater rack. There are companies that make NICE HTPC cases that properly fit in that domain, like Ahanix [ahanix.com] or Silverstone [silverstonetek.com]. I've got an Ahanix MC302 in Black housing a Xbox Media Center and it looks right at home with other Hi-Fi equipment... I woudln't know where to put a PC tower... there's no place for it in my home theater rack.
  • by beaverfever (584714) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @08:42AM (#15865073) Homepage
    From the intro: "this article claims that the PC and the TV provide two very different roles that aren't going to converge anytime soon."

    From the article: "How come none of my Apple-loving geek buddies have Macs in their living rooms?

    The article makes very easy predictions as if they are revelations. If the author had been paying attention to the computer industry he would not have harboured such wasted expectations for so long.

    A year and a half ago Jobs was very clear about his intentions [macworld.com].

    Jobs in 2004: "Well, we've always been very clear on that. We don't think that televisions and personal computers are going to merge. We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.

    Well, they want to link sometimes. Like, when you make a movie, you burn a DVD and you take it to your DVD player. Someday that could happen over AirPort, so you don't have to burn a DVD -- you can just watch it right off your computer on your television set. But most of these products that have said, "Let's combine the television and the computer!" have failed. All of them have failed.

    The problem is, when you're using your computer you're a foot away from it, you know? When you're using your television you want to be ten feet away from it. So they're really different animals."


    I used the same reference in a recent post predicting the unifying element between tv and computer will be a video Airport Express [slashdot.org], not an Apple livingroom computer, in response to a previous slashdot article [slashdot.org] suggesting forthcoming iTunes movie rentals.

  • Re:Demand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phreakiture (547094) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:02AM (#15865195) Homepage

    A PC wouldn't add much to the TV viewing experience. The TV viewing experience is complex enough as it is.

    Let's talk about getting things arranged so that I can push one button labelled DVD, and have the DVD player, sound system and monitor turn on (if they weren't already) and all other components turn off; all components set the the correct inputs and ready to go.

    Let's talk about then pushing, again, one button labelled VCR, and having the DVD player switch off, the VCR switch on, and the inputs all switch.

    Let's talk about then pushing, again, one button labelled SAT, and having the VCR switch off, and the satellite reciever switch on, and, yes, you guessed it, all of the inputs switch accordingly.

    Let's talk about then having a button labelled OFF, which, when pressed, turns off all of the components that are on.

    Finally, let's talk about the navigation and play/FF/Rew/Stop/Rec buttons follow us from function to function.

    Oh, one more thing. The monitor shouldn't switch on if there is a CD in the DVD player.... you don't need it.

    Finally, let's talk about all of this working with the highest quality signal at any given time. That means component, DVI or HDMI for the DVD player and satellite, and composite for the VCR, but the end user shouldn't need to know this once the setup is done. In other words, my wife shouldn't need to know, at all, ever, how this is hooked up. It should just work.

    Get me there, then we'll talk about adding new components.

  • by woohootoo (904621) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:31AM (#15865392)
    Gates believes there should be a computer (read "Windows") in EVERYTHING--refrigerators, pictures on the walls, TVs, you-name-it--the uber-geek approach. While I'm sure Jobs would also like to sell as many computers as possible, it's apparent that, as a marketeer, he's more aware of what the broad market will accept. Jobs approach seems a lot more realistic to me.
  • Re:Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <<slashdot.kadin> <at> <xoxy.net>> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:48AM (#15865503) Homepage Journal
    I use -- and have for quite a few years, since I gave up my standalone TV because it took up too much space and was just another thing to move around -- my computer as a TV. It takes a little bit of prior planning in how you set up your room, but I just always make sure to put my computer desk on a wall opposite some sort of seating (couch, chairs, bed, etc.). When I want to use it as a TV, I just turn full-screen on, kick the chair out of the way, and watch it.

    If you have anything less than a 19" or 20" monitor this isn't going to be much fun, but it's completely workable if you have a reasonably-sized monitor and your rooms aren't large (so that the distance from your seating to the display isn't too long). I also have two sound systems that I switch between, a small set of computer speakers that I use when I'm sitting close, and a much larger set of HiFi speakers that I change to for movie-watching.

    Really you just need to think ahead a little bit, and not stick your computer off in a corner somewhere, where it's impossible to see the screen.

    The other thing that I think is overlooked, is the ease with which you can attach a projector to most computers. When I ran into a little extra money a while back, I decided instead of getting a standalone TV (I do have room for one now, if I wanted it), to just get a projector and attach it to the secondary monitor connector on my computer. It's smaller and less obtrusive than a big TV (cieling-mount, projecting on a painted wall) when not in use, and I can change between watching something on the CRT monitor and on the projector just by turning the PJ on, and dragging the viewing window into the alternate display's desktop space. That way the computer handles the upscaling to the PJ's native resolution, without any thought on my part.

    I end up using the computer to watch TV/movies in basically three ways: when I'm sitting right in front of it, I'll put the TV or movie in a window so I can multi-task, when I want to just casually watch, I'll make it fullscreen on the regular monitor and push back my chair a bit, and when I really want the full-on home theater experience, I put the video on the projector, turn down the lights and turn off the regular display.

    About the only thing it's missing right now is a remote control, but that's just because I haven't bothered to get one and I'm waiting for Apple to release Front Row for Power Macs -- based on yesterday's announcement, that'll happen with the new version of OS X.
  • Re:Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElleyKitten (715519) <kittensunrise@ME ... com minus author> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:56AM (#15865563) Journal
    Why shouldn't your wife know how it's set up?

    It amazes me how many women have no idea what technology is set up in their own home. I do tech support, and I can't tell you how many times I've been stopped by a router or something that was password protected by her exboyfriend, and the woman didn't even know she had a router, let alone the password. Doing tech support over the phone is completely out of the with some women, because they have absolutely no clue what they have, at all. I'm sick of seeing women so damn helpless with their own technology. I'm sorry to rant at you, I thought the rest of your post was insightful, but I think you need to teach her how your stuff is set up. If you can cook for yourself when she's not home, she should be able to set up a new dvd player when you're not home.
  • by jafac (1449) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @10:04AM (#15865622) Homepage
    At a keynote several years back, he pooh-poohed "convergence" (TV/Computer) and said "TV is where people want to turn their brains off, and the Internet is where people want to turn their brains on."

    I was shocked when the video Ipod followed, and software DVD players, Tivo, FrontRow, MythTV, etc. No I wasn't.

    But there still are important differences between PC's and TV. (PC's are usually a solitary experience, TV is often a communal experience) - but I think it's been amply demonstrated that PC's can do everything a TV can do - except constant mass-download of content from a hundred channels simultaneously.

    But the main thing killing PC/TV convergence is the MPAA. Same dynamic that's killing gaming-PC's. Content producers are terrified that on a full-function PC, content will be copied and distributed, and they won't get their cut. So they want to provide their content to crippled systems only. So consumers will always have to buy one crippled device for each media type (family-room audio system, TV, game box (ps2/xbox/nintendo)) and a computer if they want one.

    This dynamic will ensure that computers, for most homes, will remain secondary luxury items, financed after the crippled "entertainment" systems are already purchased.

    The only place where this convergence makes sense is for network providers. To them, the cable monopolies, the telecom monopolies, it's all data. They'll happily provide broadband service alongside their existing networks (cable/telephone) - and shut down ISP players, until their inherent market (monopoly) powers allow them to basically shut down or marginalize the internet connection (ie. provide crappy service that a truly competitive market would otherwise improve upon).

    You plug your computer into the same connection you plug your tv into.
    But the content providers, and network providers don't want you to use your computer like a TV. Because they're afraid you'll realize it's just data too.
  • Re:Dear Sir (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @10:11AM (#15865670)
    Maybe it was just your parents' choice. I have 4 kids and I would NEVER give them all their own TVs (or computers) in their own room, nor do I and my wife have one in our own room either. It's not that I'm an anti-TV Nazi, either, we watch TV as a family quite often. But everybody off separate in their own room with doors shut all the time sounds too alienating to me.
  • by quoll (3717) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @11:36AM (#15866509)
    I got a Mac Mini for my TV specifically because composite, S-video, and component all scaled badly on my LCD 32" HDTV. Component video had the fewest artifacts, but it was still grainy, particularly with motion in the image. Apple's core-video scales so well that I can even handle watching 320x240 images at full screen, and most of time I don't even notice that it's low resolution!

    I've also moved all my children's videos onto the HDD, which makes life MUCH easier when entertaining our 2 year old on a wet day. All our kid's DVDs were getting scratched and unwatchable, but we no longer have that problem. We also have the home videos on the Mac, which the kids enjoy seeing too.

    Finally, I got an EyeTV to go with it. Unfortunately, this initially suffered from lack of integration (I either used the EyeTV or FrontRow), and because there was no single product that did the analog, digital, AND HD digital channels. I still can't get a product that does all channels, but at least the EyeTV software integrates with FrontRow now.

    So now I can watch TV, DVDs, saved movies, home movies, family photos, and also listen to iTunes, all with one box, and all using a single tiny remote that has only 6 buttons. I just had to plug it in and it *worked* (I loved this feature), though I needed to install software when I got the EyeTV. Ease and features makes it all worthwhile, and gets lots of comments from friends and family, but my REAL reason for setting it up was just so standard definition DVDs wouldn't look so grainy on a high definition screen. :-)

    (I'm sure XP Media edition would offer similar benefits of flexibility and HD clarity, but I love the Mac Mini form factor, and the tiny remote)
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:30PM (#15868393) Journal
    Then I haven't explained it well enough.

    1. The techno-fetishism part. Look at the post I was answering to. It was literally dividing the world into (A) the ones with the HDTV, PVR, etc, as the "technologically informed" and (B) the rest of the world. I mean, literally, based on ownership, either you have all the gizmos, or you're too uninformed to know that they exist.

    Which, sorry, strikes me as fetishism. If anyone can see a PVR as _that_ necessary, to the point where the only way to not have one is to be "technologically uninformed"... I don't know, that's already even past the usual snotty elitism level. That's already in the bizarre fetish territory. Any normal human would have a long list of other stuff they need more than a PVR or HDTV, and only get to the PVR or HDTV if they still have money left after all that stuff.

    I'm not saying that HDTV isn't better, I'm basically saying that for the average person it's more in the optional luxuries range than in the necessities range. Sure, it's better, but there are a lot of things that most people would do with their money before they get to needing one, especially if they only watch TV for only a few hours a week. I dunno, getting a better house, a car, whatever, or just saving a little money for the next time they have to look for a job. (It really helps if you can afford to look for a good job, as opposed to getting the first crap one out of sheer lack of options.) Placing a stupid PVR above and beyond all that, to the point where the only way for someone to _not_ have one is to be uninformed... well, that's what I was filing under bizarre fetish.

    Whether you fit that definition or not, I couldn't tell, but it seems to me you're more logical than thinking you absolutely need a computer attached to the TV, just because it's a computer. The "knowing there are better channels of information than TV" part hints at some rational thought behind it. No idea, though.

    2. About the conspicuous consumption. Well, 19" probably isn't conspicuous consumption, or not too bad as conspicuous consumption goes. They're getting pretty mainstream nowadays. Still, there _are_ people who use their gadgets as status symbols.

    3. About the "sour grapes" part... Not sure in what way you mean it. If you mean as in the usual "I bet you wish you could afford one"... I've already said I'm a programmer, and let's just say my business card says "senior consultant". Sure, it's not a CEO salary by a very wide margin, but trust me, I _can_ afford a TV or a computer (in PVR form or not). The economy isn't _that_ bad yet :P

    It doesn't mean I can't sneer at conspicuous consumption, though. Just because I can afford to blow money on stuff I don't need, doesn't mean I _have_ to.

    I see people digging themselves into debt every day trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, and to preferrably out-spend the Joneses. Unfortunately consumerism is a never-ending race. People think "wow, how happy I would be if I had just that one extra piece of merchandise." And they actually are... for a whole couple of days. Then, due to how the human brain works, it becomes the new baseline. And they need to one-up it to get their next temporary high. And then the Joneses buy an even bigger gizmo, and now they have to one-up _that_. It never ends, and it never actually works like people hope. It's a neverending carrot on a stick that people hold in front of their own eyes. Surely the _next_ purchase will be the one that keeps you happy for ever. Oops. It still didn't.

    So there you go. Make what you will out of that.
  • I really don't understand not wanting to know.

    My husband's going to be out of town for a week and a half next month. If I didn't know how the living room is wired up, what would I do if I had to move it (say, maintenance needs to fix something, or there's flooding, etc), or if the DVD player broke and needed to be replaced, or even if the cat pulls out one of the wires? Would I just not use it until he got home? What would you do in that situation?
  • by jb.hl.com (782137) <joe@NOspAm.joe-baldwin.net> on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @01:04AM (#15871707) Homepage Journal
    DVD Jon, you see, actually did break a law. An unfair and unjust law, I might add, but a law nonetheless. DVD Jon is not however one of the people I specified in my comment.

    And no, saying that your opinion is "common knowledge" doesn't make it so. WMP has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and at any rate even if WMP is shit it has very little to do with DRM.

    Just a thought by the way...media PCs exist. We have had Windows MCE for ages now, preinstalled on numerous computers available from a wide range of hardware vendors. It's not because of lack of availability or any other factor that they're not more widespread, it's that there just isn't that much demand outside of the Slashdot crowd.

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