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What Happened to Media PCs? 371

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".
    • Re:Demand (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:19AM (#15864165)
      Not true. Well, not if my recent experience is anything to go by. Like many of the rest of you I suppose, I get frequent requests to help friends and neighbors buy a PC. More and more I am getting the older generation asking me for the following:

      1) A small quiet set-top box type PC
      2) Records cable/terrestrial TV to HD like a TIVO/VCR
      3) Has a simple kiosk type menu with a remote
      4) Low power so it can be always on
      5) Does internet radio
      6) (*and very tellingly added as a last afterthought) Can browse the web

      Since I cannot buy such a device I build and configure them myself. I use P4/celeron mini-itx boards, a good TV/capture card, 300GB SATA drives,
      The OS I build (by hand, though I now have an image I burn) is a minimal GNU/Linux based on LFS which is similar to distributions like Dynebolic. It has low latency kernel, carefully tuned disk access using hdparms and carefully tweaked afs for very large file support. I buy the cases from a custom manufacturer in the UK and they are built for very low noise and low temperature operation using a rear external heatsink.

      In the last month I have had requests for 5 such devices, not much you may think, but a year ago nobody wanted such a thing. What I think has happened is that the demand is there, it's been planted in peoples minds that that's what a PC should do. All the hype by major corps has led to widespread disappointment because they can't deliver what they promised, and it's left to us independent hackers to come up with the reality.

      I'm not complaining though :) I expect to get double the orders next month, and I will rinse out this situation while the going is good. It won't last forever, I expect within a year Sony or somebody will deliver what I am building now at a fraction of the cost in a stylish plastic box. On the other hand maybe it will be so crippled that my customers will keep coming back for more of the real deal.
      • I am surprised, but I'll take your word for it - that's very interesting.

        Go the independent hacker!
      • Re:Demand (Score:3, Informative)

        by IAmTheDave ( 746256 )
        I find all of that possible now with the exception of recording HD - at least with our current cable monopoly here, Comcast makes it almost impossible to record HD with anything other than their own rent-a-DVR, which is relatively sucktastic.

        Cable-card (or, at least v. 2) was supposed to solve all of this, choice-for-the-consumer wise, but its rollout has been far from happening. I had thought that it was at some point government mandated, but I suppose that was me dreaming instead. About a year ago, Tosh
      • Re:Demand (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Locutus ( 9039 )
        if any of the large OEMs start making these, they won't be using our favorite OS and customizing it. They'll have to use Microsoft Windows( probably the MediaCenter version ). You might laugh but I had just spoke with a former HP project manager a few weeks ago and he told me how he had two projects which leveraged Linux as the base OS but when he brought in the marketing guys for the product release, they canned the projects. You see, the 'financial' impact these two projects would have on the 'profits' of
    • Re:Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:22AM (#15864174) 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.
    • Re:Demand (Score:2, Interesting)

      by johnnyringo ( 202714 )
      Demand? Aren't the majority of Dell consumer machines set with media center edition? so do most (alright, maybe a little more than half)laptops from all manufacturers? Apple, once they solve movie DRM, will announce something, perhaps at their product event (not the recent developer conference).

      I personally own a media center box in addition to my main pc. I love it. looks fantastic, works better than other options out there, and the interface is really top-notch. It's probably the only think I like from Mi
    • Re:Demand (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Al Dimond ( 792444 )
      So the demand isn't there but you wouldn't blame the technology? What else could be to blame? You don't blame the market when a product fails, you blame the product for being wrong for the market. It doesn't matter if "media center" PCs are technological marvels (they're not), if they're not well-suited to the task at hand they'll just get in the way of users that want a truly intuitive experience. That would make them bad technology.

      Remember the article that was posted here earlier comparing the virtue
    • Re:Demand (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
      The main problem is that many people already have a dvd/video/tv/music system installed.

      Why replace all of those things with a media centre? Your friends won't be impressed by a computer system, they'll be impressed by your large plasma screen tv (this seems to be what my brother in law thinks anyway, I don't have a tv). You don't need a computer to have a large tv screen on the go.

      The only reason media centre pc's got any attention is because the people who make the hardware and software for them wanted pe
      • Hi-Tech to impress. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jellomizer ( 103300 ) *
        I think you hit the nail on the head. People buy this stuff to impress others. Consiously or sub-Consiously. Why do you think people buy the large Hi-Def Flat Screen TVs, Fancy Cars, Stylish Laptops... It is to impress other people. Most companies know this. You will not get more or less entertained with a hi-def TV vs. a Normal one, with the content being the same. Having a high performance sports car will not get you to work any faster (legally?, But still you can speed in your old car too), A fancy Mac
        • So, I suppose the 56" HDTV I bought (which, nobody aside from myself has seen) is just for 'impressions'? And the hours I spent setting up Meedio was just so I can show off? I think not.

          While I understand the point you are trying to make, I don't think your sweeping generalization is accurate.

          People buy HDTV's because they DO look better. In addition to that, they are - for the most part - flat and don't take up as much space as previous generations of TV's.

          Those two things account for FAR mo
    • 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.

      • Re:Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ElleyKitten ( 715519 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {esirnusnettik}> 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 dduardo ( 592868 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:34AM (#15864038)
    It wasn't shown for the same reason new ipods weren't shown: they are consumer products. Wait for Macworld.
  • Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:35AM (#15864044)
    Computer = active entertainment.
    TV = Passive.

    TV in the home is essentially radio with pictures. When's the last time you made a point to listen to a radio program, and only listen to a radio program in your home? I'd stop everything when I was younger to listen to Royal Canadian Air Farce or my tapes of Eclectic Circus, but other than that.

    Computer's can't do that. Even the most banal of websites requires more of your attention than a TV show or radio, and then there's gaming, which is a 100% immersive, active experience.
    • Huh? Just play a video file or audio file, voilà, passive entertainment. And what does websites and gaming have to do with media PCs (which are PCs that come with Windows Media Center edition, a updated version of WinXP with a UI that has DVD-playerlike simplicity for playing video and audio)?

      Oh, you didn't RTFA and didn't even know what a media PC is? Nevermind, carry on.
    • Re:Simple (Score:2, Informative)

      by mlush ( 620447 )

      Computer = active entertainment.
      TV = Passive.

      Are you saying that active entertainment on a TV won't sell? I understand games consoles are quite popular

      TV in the home is essentially radio with pictures. When's the last time you made a point to listen to a radio program, and only listen to a radio program in your home? I'd stop everything when I was younger to listen to Royal Canadian Air Farce or my tapes of Eclectic Circus, but other than that.

      Now you really have lost me are you now are you say

    • But you're missing the point.

      Media PC is supposed to incorporate PC AND Tivo into one neat package.

      Think about it. I've heard that 20% of internet's traffics were generated by torrents.

      And lots of them are TV series and Animes and Movies, all of which are Passive entertainment as you've specified.

      If and When this so called "apple media PC" comes out, it may, finally, provide an uncluttered solution to

      A.Watch TV
      B.Watch downloaded contents
      C.Record and playback TV shows any time you want
      D.Stream shows to other
  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:35AM (#15864046)

    I always hoped this idea would die a horrible death. First, because SDTV offers horrible resolution and the image is so blurry it's useless as a PC. Second, the interface sucks, and even with a wireless keyboard, it just doesn't work for most people in the living room. Even with a HDTV and wireless devices, it's more of a niche role.

    I think the console game systems fill this niche, but not in the "living room PC" sense of the word. We have devices that offer living room gaming, DVRs, but not a "computer on the TV." Thank God! Every effort so far has sucked, not just because of its own merits (e.g. WebTV) but because the two ideas just don't mesh well. Maybe they will later on, but it's nothing I'll hold my breath for.

  • 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 p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:40AM (#15864062)

      Actually, while MP3 phones have flunked the general market, enthusiasts have totally bought into it. I can't count the number of mobile-nut friends I have that drool over their W810's. The early-gen MP3 phones really really sucked, but the W810 has a really slick interface (and an airplane mode... hint hint Motorola) and it's quite nice to have an integrated device done RIGHT.

      • I know you can get several phones from MOTO with airplane mode (I believe the V3I has it and probobly others like the SLVR or the V3X or others).

        The new stuff they just announced may well have it too.
    • You mean like the Kyocera Slider Remix [kyocera-wireless.com]? Add on stereo headphones [kyocera-wireless.com] that let you talk to callers as well (and automatically mute your music when you answer a call), plus 512mb [google.com] of storage for all that music and pictures (1.3megapixel is kinda fun on a phone).
    • 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.

      Mostly true. I've built a few media PCs and tried out the different packages available, including Windows Media Center, MythTV and a couple of the apps that came with the DTV cards. They worked, but not the way an appliance works - there

    • 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.
      • Of course. This is total nonsense. If there's anything mobile phones are destined to do it's take over the role of the MP3 player. The manufacturers have had some problems getting the interfaces right, but why on earth would you want a seperate device to do what a phone can do easily?

        Mobile phones are already taking over the digicam market, while there's still (and probably alway will be) a strong case for dedicated camera's. Good optics will probably always require space that you don't have in a phone.

    • MP3's are just waiting for the west to get decent hardware. In Japan most people don't bother with iPods, most phones have 4GB+ MP3 Storage, and you get them for free/cheap.
    • What happened to the MP3 phones? They lost out to devices that can do the job better and cheaper.

      While that may be true of the US, here in the UK mp3-capable phones are pretty common. I commute daily on the (London) Underground, and a fairly large proportion of people listening to music are doing so on their phone.

      Hell, I have an iRiver, and am still very tempted by a phone that can play mp3s, although I have a specific reason - I go clubbing most Saturday nights, and listen to music on the way there to get
    • by baker_tony ( 621742 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:19AM (#15864463) Homepage
      I take it you're only talking about the USA when you say "What happened to the MP3 phones"? While iPods are prevalent over here in the UK, the next most common site is people listening to their phones. I actually watch episodes of Seinfeld and Futurama on my phone (k750i, getting damn old now but does its job very nicely) during my commute home (via public transport here in London, not car).

      P.S. I use mpegable to encode any video files for my phone.

  • TV out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @01:36AM (#15864049)

    While I agree with TFA that people simply aren't ready to turn PCs into TVs and vice versa, maybe they're overly harsh on the Mac. It doesn't have video in/out features, nor do any Macs have integrated TV tuners... The remote is the only media-center-esque feature on the Macs, but that hardly means Apple meant to make it a media center machine.

    The problem is really one of cost and usability. An HTPC costs too much. When confronted with the option of the $100 set top box provided by the cableco vs. a $600 HTPC, what is the obvious choice for the average user? Not to mention the set top box is plug and play, and requires no finangling with software (or God forbid, Windows).

    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.

    • Re:TV out (Score:3, Insightful)

      "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 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.
    • by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:02AM (#15864116) Homepage
      True, there are many issues that you will encounter when setting up a Media PC. Least of all, Windows XP Media Center Edition. I mean, I know MS is trying, in that they are trying to provide both a fully usable computer that runs all of the Windows software, and an easy to use software that seamlessly integrates with your other AV equipment. But putting aside MS's issue, let's explore why Media PCs are not a popular hardware buy.

      First of all, you need hardware aside from the PC itself for a media experience. A 27" TV and $50 Wal-Mart speakers are not going to cut it: this setup would be worse than a PC with a real monitor and computer speakers. You need some real hardware, at least a 40" screen (I have a 65" screen), although you can get away with a smaller LCD screen (DLP, Plasma, and Projection need to be larger as their pixel density tends to be lower, although HDTV is helping out here). So, that will run you at least a $1000 (assuming you get a nice screen, not bargain basement). You also need speakers. Hooked up to a receiver. Think at least Dolby 5.1 surround sound, with a decent set. Probably about $500.

      So that's $1500 right there, and you're not even up to the PC yet.

      But assuming you already have the above (I'd love to see Dell selling big screen TVs and surround sound setups with Media PCs: "Buy now, and get $100 off that 70" Mitsubishi DLP today!" -> right, that'll sell, you come to the PC. And a decent Media PC (running Windows), needs slightly more expensive hardware than a standard budget PC. Basically, you are bulding a pimped out gamer's machine, as no one is going to buy a Media PC to "check their email." They'd get a budget PC.

      Start off with the latest and greatest ATI All-in-Wonder. That can cost at least $300, usually more towards $500. Sorry, Nvidia can't compete with ATI in the multimedia realm. Not yet, anyways. People are going to want to play games, and impress their friends. And you need that video input/output functionality. Sure, you could use seperate cards, but this solution is more elegant.

      Next, sound card. Whatever Turtlebeach or Soundblaster offer from idrange on upwards (need something nice to drive those 6 speakers, and to provide 3D audio without taxing the processor).

      Processor and memory need to be something decent. Thinking dual core, with at least a GB of ram. Hard disk at least 300GB, for all those movies (you've downloaded) you'll want to watch.

      Keyboard/Mouse-> Logitech or MS, Wireless (bluetooth, more range), USB.

      DVD writer (because).

      Case -> something stylish. Common failing here, most Media PC cases are horrible to look at, work with, or upgrade. Something slick, that is easily upgradeable, but easy to work with.

      Add all this up, and you have a fairly expensive PC. Sure, you could swap in cheaper components, or argue that you could get by with some of the onboard stuff, but this is a MediaPC, something that is a PC that works well with Media. And multimedia traditionally requires both horsepower and space.

      • Actually you don't need an uber system for Windows MCE. Intel makes a great 945 chipset Media Edition motherboard http://www.intel.com/products/motherboard/d945gnt/ index.htm/ [intel.com] as do a couple of other vendors. You can get a DVI daughter card for less than $50 for your digital out, but I even skipped that for a better solution.

        I have my MCE server set elsewhere in the house and use my XBOX as the head unit that's plugged into my home theater system. It was really easy to do and now I don't have to pay a mo
      • I'd love to see Dell selling big screen TVs and surround sound setups with Media PCs: "Buy now, and get $100 off that 70" Mitsubishi DLP today!
        Why would Dell sell Mitsubishi TVs when they have their own brand? [dell.com]

        Case -> something stylish. Common failing here
        I agree, a standard beige case or even fancy brushed aluminum job with standard mods of flashing LED fans etc would be horribly out of place. I'm thinking something along the lines of the Mac Mini form factor would be about right. Different en
      • You make it sound much more complicated and expensive than it is.

        We run the following.
        42" Teac plasma ($2500) (prices AUD /2 for usd (I exch rate is .75 but you guys also have higher volume))
        Shuttle SB86i SBC with 512MB Ram, 2.8MHz Celeron!, GEForce 6200 (DVI out) (http://www.digitalnow.com.au/dntvlive/index.html ($200)
        A logitec wireless mouse/keyboard (?? $60)
        Win XP Home but not running media centre. We run DNTV live which seems very stable.

        So we use it for: free to air digital TV, music, recording, basic
      • Actually, a decent home infrastructure could ease it all and I guess the specs you quote are way off.
        So, if you have a server in the basement then the media PC does not have to have a HDD at all that cuts down a lot of the price (not just the HDD itself, but you also do not have to worry about cooling it and reducing its noise).
        For sound card, the onboard one or a $10 CMI-8738 based one will do absolutely fine, as you are going to use the SPDIF connection.
        Processing power needs are absolutely minimal: an XB
      • All-In-Wonder? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ben there... ( 946946 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:04AM (#15864424) Journal
        Start off with the latest and greatest ATI All-in-Wonder. That can cost at least $300, usually more towards $500. Sorry, Nvidia can't compete with ATI in the multimedia realm. Not yet, anyways. People are going to want to play games, and impress their friends. And you need that video input/output functionality. Sure, you could use seperate cards, but this solution is more elegant.

        Why would you get an ATI card? ATI is not the leader in either TV Tuners or Video Cards.

        For TV Tuners, you can get an equivalent Hauppauge PVR150MCE for $30, or go with the Fusion HDTV if you want digital. And as far as nVidia in the TV tuner market, they recently released the DualTV [nvidia.com], with 2 tuners, which beats anything ATI has produced, and gives the Hauppauage PVR500 a run for its money.

        For the video card, nVidia has all the hardware accelerated MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoding, starting with 6xxx (fanless, silent, low profile 6200 is $30).
      • let's explore why Media PCs are not a popular hardware buy

        No need to, it's pretty simple actually : no one of them has all the necessary features, thus justifying the price, and they all got useless features too.

        First of all, you need hardware aside from the PC itself for a media experience

        This is irrelevant. My wife is crazy about the media center I built, and would be as much crazy about it on a small TV set, especially since we're still using SD.
        She actually told me the image quality was worse on the med
  • 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.

    • 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.

      This used to be true, though I think it's becoming slightly less of a problem. Most content I get/make anymore uses MPEG-4 Part 2 (DivX or XviD in an AVI container--no fault in that). Personally my problem is with
    • That's the whole point of the media PC; to play whatever format. Otherwise they'd all be in the DVD format and your DVD player could play it.

    • It is indeed a problem, but I've rarely had a video file that VLC couldn't handle. Of course, VLC doesn't really solve the problem, it just puts the problem in the hands of the VLC developers rather than the user. But it does make it easier for consumers.
  • Content. Content. Content. Just like in real estate (location location location) these are the three things media corps care about the most. Until they make it easy (i.e., open standardized protocols) for information to be moved around, any media center is going to be locked in to proprietary difficult to use formats and only /. esque users will really be able to take advantage of these possibilities. The average user will never pay for something they need to spend more than 5 min trying to get to work. Trying new approaches to media delivery and exchange is veerrryy scary for corps that think their livelihood depends on "owning" the rights of Green Acres and Two's Company.
    • 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.
  • Ehh. I have an LCD monitor setup where a TV would be in my living room. It's used as a computer when I'm alone, generally. And as a TV when guests are over. Or when I want to watch something from the couch. Just move the damn desk chair. :P You don't need a remote to have a TV, you couch potatos. :P And in any case, you can buy them for PC.
  • 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.
  • so it not going to happen? Seriously, this is going to happen one way or another. Just because the PC might not be used for browsing the web doesn't mean we won't see in in some form. Its already here if you consider a Tivo.
  • Wait a year.

    Apple is poised to make the Mini an on demand movie replacement for your TV.

    • Right, with the mini's copious high-performance disk capacity and expandability.

      Nothing like trumpeting the mini's superiority based on its size only to have to add two or more external boxes to enable media pc functionality.

      How's OS X gonna play WM10 drm'ed files? It's not, but MCE can play the QT ones. Sorry, but the mini just ain't it for a media pc. Until the mac can play all available content AND offer a machine with suitable capacity / capability that is quiet and appropriate for the living room, A
  • The Media Computer, "Convergence," and computers in the living room have been around forever. I can remember reading about them and how they would "change everything" in articles about CES and Computex in 1992. Same with FMV, remember that? While arguable the technology to make it viable arrived in about 2004 or so (See MythTV) the consumer demand really isn't there. I mean it really isn't there. When's the last time anyone used any of the "Special Features" on a DVD, I don't mean the scene selections
  • Absolutely nobody wants to give up enough control to make the media-center PC practical (therefore possible).

    Media companies are scared that you can edit out commercials, make copies, etc. Tech companies are scared to death of being sued by the media companies, and also trying their hardest to get the kind of propritary lock-in with media files that Microsoft has with Windows.

    The open source projects are actually doing alright, but it's a lot of work to set-up. Get a good source for XMLTV, and start distr
  • My 2.8 GHz Windows MCE 2005 laptop runs utorrent or Azureus like a champ. Video looks fantastic on the widescreen and is easy to control with VLC. I've used the MCE functionality to record only a handful of shows directly from cable. It's easier to download than have to worry about being plugged into a cable connection. Plus there are no commercials.
  • The living room PC was an ideal in a very short period of time when PCs were powerful enough for mass-multimedia, but networking wasn't quite up to the task of delivering it remotely.

    Thusly, a component formfactor PC for your entertainment rack, to rip movies onto, download music onto, etc. For one reason or another, protocols and speeds hadn't standardized to allow this to be done over a network. (Windows MCE 2004 era)

    Very shortly thereafter, Windows MCE 2005 was released, and the need for a Living Room PC
  • Firstly, they're a solution looking for a problem. Dedicated hardware works much better in this instance, even if the hardware is effectively a PC in disguise.

    Secondly, current implementations suck. Apart from the initial install and extremely basic functionality, getting MCE running properly with multiple file types and codecs is almost as hard as installing and grooming MythTV - even on blessed hardware!

    And why feck around with either, when I can go and buy a twin-tuner SD digital PVR for under AU$800,
  • 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.
  • First of all WWDC stands for World Wide DEVELOPER Conference. People keep asking about iPods and updated Mac minis, but they're missing the point that this isn't the place to intro new consumer goods.

    Secondly, everybody is being stalled by the media companies as they try to avoid the situation the music industry is in right now. Those deals are still being worked out as we speak. The technology is ready, it's just the legal stuff holding it back.
    • Yes, a MacWorld is where we would expect a consumer item like a mac-mini+tuner device. But the marketplace wants apple to provide a solution or a rebuttle. So they present these things. For example all the "What about a Apple Tablet PC, boy I am sure they would have a creative 'done right' solution" ideas.
  • Software issues (Score:3, Informative)

    by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:08AM (#15864142) Journal
    I've tried making a 'media center' for the living room with stock PC and components, and here's where I had problems:

    Controls. I still had a mouse and keyboard attached to it, and while I could have gotten a wireless set, it still would have been clunky. Someone needs to make a remote with a trackpoint and a treo- or sidekick-sized keyboard, and the regular remote features. Everthing should be controllable through a remote, without a separate KB/mouse.

    Interface. Sure, I had a bunch of videos on the compuer, but it was a PITA going through explorer to find and organize things. Something like iTunes for video would have helped. This was on Windows, and I have heard good things about MythTV, though. Oh, and the resolution difference between TV and PC monitors meant everything looked unreadable or ugly on the TV.

    Recording Quality. The video recording from either my Hauppage card or my ATI card were really not that impressive. I could have cranked up the resolution to DVD levels, but the motion compression still kinda sucked.

    Aeshetics. Okay, this is my fault, but I had a really big beige box that was really loud next to my TV. That's wat happens when you use an old P4 tower to be your 'Media PC'. If I were to do it today, I would use the lowest-power proc I could find and one of those mini ATX cases. Most of the PC market just isn't designed to be in your living room.

    On a brighter note, this is what I wish I could afford: Sony Type X Living [sonystyle.com] - 1.5TB HDD, wireless and wired file server, 2 video tuners, DVD-RW, TV web browsing, scheduling software, HDTV compatible... If only Sony would just dump their 'media' division and have the hardware guys take over again, we could see a really good competitor to Apple in digital integration :(
  • I have a Media PC. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SURsys ( 993861 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:14AM (#15864152)
    I use my MPC for my personal music collection, radio, movies, as well as TV. It plays DVD's as would be expected and after installing the codecs also plays xvid, divx, etc. The remote I use interacts with it like a normal TV remote. Also works on the DVD menu's and such.

    Realize, they're called MEDIA PC's, not TV PC's. Of course, for the average TV watcher, the cable company's set top box will work quite well, but, for those that understand the potential and have a use for it, the MPC is a big step above.

    This is more of a niche than people thought it was going to be, it's not turned out so much to be for the average user. In regards to price, setup, maintenance, etc, it's just not worth it for most people.

  • by Yeechang Lee ( 3429 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @02:41AM (#15864227) Homepage
    From the Slate article:

    Very savvy consumers will hack together ["PC-TV hybrid"] setups themselves.

    Yes, we are indeed building them ourselves. However, we are doing so primarily because we can't find what we want on sale anywhere for any price. The below is an adapted version of a recent Usenet post of mine describing what I have come to daily take for granted with my high-definition MythTV setup:
    . . . MythTV works, and works well, for those who are interested in a "HD TiVo" without any of TiVo's limitations. I must admit to chuckling whenever I see a question in alt.tv.tech.hdtv or elsewhere asking how to record from a HD video source with a computer in terms that make it clear the poster and the respondents view the task as something akin to cavemen discovering fire.

    I work long, long hours and, when I get home, often don't have any more energy left to do more than want to just relax in front of the tube. When I do so, I want to have as much choice in what to watch as possible. Let me tell one and all of what I with 100% reliability do with my MythTV setup every day:

    • Push a button on the remote[1] to wake the 47" 1080p[2] LCD panel[3] from its DPMS slumber.
    • Pick from a gigantic library[4] of high-definition programs that MythTV constantly adds to[5] based on my choices.[6]
    • While playing the program, rewind, fast-forward, and jump to arbitrary points as desired. I can also adjust the playback speed anywhere from 0.5X to 2X without affecting audio pitch.[7]
    • I can push a button to instantly and accurately skip over commercials.[8] If I've gone too far, another button will skip me back to the previous spot.
    • If I exit a recording, the next time I watch it the playback will continue where I left off.[9]
    • If I ever need to restart MythTV, pushing a button on my remote twice within three seconds will cause it to do so.[10]
    • If I want, I can run MythTV on my MacBook and watch the exact same programs[11] with the exact same elegant and attractive user interface.[12]
    • All this time, MythTV is silently recording yet more for me to watch.[13]

    If any of this intrigues you, I recommend visiting:

    • The MythTV Wiki [mythtv.org] and the mythtv-users mailing list archive [gossamer-threads.com], the two largest repositories of MythTV knowledge.
    • The terrific Fedora Core-based installation guide [wilsonet.com] I used.
    • A well-regarded MythTV reference design [mythic.tv] for those who want to either buy it off the shelf from the vendor or build it themselves. I'm neither a customer nor an employee; all I did for my own setup was buy a Sony Pentium 4 [amazon.com] system on sale at Fry's then add the video card, ATSC capture card, gigabit Ethernet card, remote, and NAS. However, in retrospect, there's something to be said [gossamer-threads.com] for buying at once all the parts except the NAS in one convenient, already-integrated form.

    [1] Home Theater Master MX-500 [remotecentral.com] universal remote. I programmed it using a $30 infrared keyboard/mouse combo [gossamer-threads.com].

    [2] MythTV does an *excellent* job of deinterlacing 1080i recordings into 1080p for those displays that can handle it. Any Nvidia video card from the FX5200 to the present will work.

    [3] Westinghouse LVM-47W1 [westinghousedigital.com]. Under $2500 from Crutchfield [crutchfield.com] for 1080p LCD goodness.

    [4] MythTV tells me that I have "242 programs, using 1.7 TB (427 hrs 33 mins) out of 1.8 TB (54 GB fr

  • I thought Couch-Surfing was sleeping on random people's couches when you don't have a place to stay.
  • I definitely want something along these lines. I have a small condo, without enough room for a nice computer setup and a separate entertainment setup. I am being won over by apple's new stuff, and while I haven't bought anything yet I think I'd really like something along the lines of their 30" cinema display (which just today got bumped from $2500 down to $2000) and a macbook pro to drive it.

    I figure a display like that is great for both a computer and a tv, especially in a small place like mine. And doing
  • From TFA:

    My tech-savvy friends who can afford anything they want set up a huge HDTV with TiVo, cable, and DVD players--then sit in front of it with a laptop on their knees. They use Google and AIM while watching TV, but they keep their 2-foot and 10-foot gadgets separate.

    That's exactly what I do. I'd love to be able to bring some of my computer media over to the TV, but I don't want to keep a noisy PC running all the time, I don't want to string a keyboard and mouse over to my coffee table, and I don't want

  • The "Media PC" may not have arrived, but set-top boxes that allow you to access digital content in your living room are slowly making progress. I bought and abandoned the ViewSonic WMA100 [viewsonic.com] after one too many crashes of its internal operating system, wtf that is, and reading on their website faq that no, they weren't planning on any updates -- way to kiss off future business, ViewSonic -- and replaced it with the D-Link DSM-520 [dlink.com]. Its internal software is also not perfect, but D-Link has been releasing update

  •   Media PCs died before they didn't come bundled with MythTV
  • I'm surprised to read that the market is struggling in the US, because it's clearly booming here. I know two guys at the office who have just bought media center boxes, and they're advertised all over the place. Maybe it's a cultural issue, not a technical one?
  • Why would Apple announce consumer products at the WWDC???
  • 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

  • I thought media "PC" is called XBOX + mod + XBMC.

    Microsoft STILL cannot figure out why it's great. They crippled xbox 360 media streaming effectively making it a non-feature.
  • 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 ot
  • by seanyboy ( 587819 ) * on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @04:08AM (#15864432)
    The biggest problem with Home Media computers I can see is DRM & copyright. Tivo, et al would probably be bigger now if it wasn't for fights with large media corporations about what can be downloaded and watched on what. iTunes would be more useful if the tunes could be shared with a small Living Room PC which ran a free operating system on cheap hardware.

    If I could easily (like three buttons easy) download missed episodes of favourite shows I'd have more of a requirement for a Living Room P.C.

    The reason this technology has not set off is because of legal restrictions placed on early adopters. I may be being overly paranoid here, but this is how big-media wants it. You watch what they tell you when they tell you. Anything that gets in the way of that will not be allowed to propagate into the mass market.
  • 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 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.


  • 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 big ben bullet ( 771673 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @08:15AM (#15864948) Homepage
    The biggest drawback is DRM.

    If JS (Joe Sixpack) can't record what he wants, while he could do that with a normal VCR, he's not going to buy it.

    JS also wants to share his recordings or the media he bought with his friends (again, this could be done with a VCR).

    Offcourse, there are DRM-less solutions (like MythTV 'n stuff) but that's just too complex for JS.
  • Tried a Mac Mini? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xugumad ( 39311 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @08:18AM (#15864962)
    So far the best experience I've had with a Media PC setup has been using an Intel based Mac Mini, EyeTV 2 and a DVB-T receiver. It's not perfect (the Mac will occaisionally fail to wake up to record a program, for example), but it's fairly good.

    However, at the end of the day, the only advantage it has over a standalone dedicated box is upgradability. Cost and ease of use are both major downsides.
  • 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.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @09:32AM (#15865394) Homepage
    They are being killed by the industry and the techno-fetishists. The Slashdot reviews all talk about $3000 machines with 4-way processors, RAID drives, multiple tuners, and big 3D cards. Those are not media PCs, they are high-end gaming and video desktop.

    I built [mobydisk.com] a media PC that IMHO does the job:
    • Low power so you can put it in your entertainment center without it overheating
    • Nearly silent
    • Software optimized for browsing (Opera with 180% magnification)
    • Good quality wireless keyboard, mouse, and remote control
    • Uses HDMI outputs so text is readable
    • Inexpensive

    The industry needs to change in two fundamental ways:
    1) Accessibility - software needs to work in a greater variety of environments. That means high-DPI and low-DPI displays, and low-resolution displays, multiple aspect-ratios.
    2) TVs and Video Cards: non-interlaced, DVI/HDMI, no overscanning, >60hz, standard aspect-ratios.

    P.S. Also, I have yet to see a media PC with surround sound. That's because sound cards use 3 stereo cables, while receivers use Dolby encoding over one pair of cables. This is just one of those cases where computers do it differently than all other consumer devices (although they do it better).
  • 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.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.