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Introducing the NEW Media Servers

by The DVD Insider May 19, 2005

Content delivery is keeping some of the finest engineers in the world up at night because they know if they can develop and deliver the solution with the broadest possible appeal, their organizations can prosper. Those that don't will be left by the wayside.

The truth is most will probably enjoy some degree of success. Some people will only want a smart TV. Others will want content delivered by their service provider's equipment. There will be those who purchase a CE media center for their content enjoyment. Many will want some type of a media center PC. In recent weeks industry pundits have begun to recognize a whole new class of innocent but powerful content homes - game systems .

People have begun to realize that game systems are about to take their place as a serious media management/delivery solution and do more than play games. The PS3 and Xbox 360 will do more than let kids slay enemies. They have storage devices, wireless/wired connectivity and really serious processors. Sure the original Play Station had these capabilities years ago but few people - let alone the PC and CE manufacturers - took serious notice. One company did though… the small software firm in Redmond, WA.

Granted, the first Xbox had a lot of shortcomings and became a product category where Microsoft could seemingly waste a couple of billion dollars. But with the introduction of the new system it is obvious that the men and women on the sprawling campus have been doing more than writing Longhorn code.

[playstation3front2] Sony's new PS3 and Microsoft's new Xbox 360 are not just toys that won't just bring tears to the eyes of young and old gamers, they are giving the CE and PC manufacturers alike strong reason to examine their product mixes more closely.

With a few peripherals and product line extensions, they can be pivotal products that a lot of people will use to help them tie together two or three computers to share the internet connection and swap the occasional music, photo or video file. With very little imagination people will be able to use them to connect to TV sets around the house, DVD and audio players, amplifiers and speakers at home and other content enjoyment devices, including portable communications/entertainment units.

Working with "competitive" solution firms, we saw Sony's PS had its eye on the top of our TV years ago but couldn't justify the approach or the purpose - heck we had a hard enough time playing Pong!

[Fig6mixedmedia] Ours, like most are or will be, is a mixed-media solution (see right). Wire to the house - Internet and cable, wireless in the house. Of course Hollywood is trying to stop the wanton sharing in the house because two people "might" watch the same movie in different rooms at the same time! Or they "might" edit out content portions. Or they might - forbid - archive the content for later viewing (and we all know what that means - you're going to make 10 copies and sell them to friends and neighbors and cut them out of more revenue). That's something they will fight in every legislature and every court…around the world.

While the CE folks envision dozens of CE devices hooked up around the house and used on the go, the PC planners envision a world where the computer is the center of your content universe.

We - and millions of people around the globe - like the PC scenario. It's a remarkably inexpensive, remarkably powerful and remarkably versatile box that will hold and do anything you want it to do (with the right software).

[Fig4Trends] In many parts of the world where people live in small homes rather than sprawling ranch houses that system is a mobile or notebook computer. Look more closely at the chart on the right and imagine the living spaces in many of those countries. In most areas homes are small - extremely small - and a notebook with PVR connection, a projector/screen, speakers, and other shrunken entertainment devices is a lot easier to design around than a huge TV set, TiVo, tower PC(s) and other huge, sleek entertainment boxes. Or if you live in a dorm room or Manhattan studio apartment, it's easier to live with a notebook that can do it all.

The CE folks realize this and increasingly they are offering wireless connectivity in their home and on-the-go entertainment devices. There are wireless projection systems, wireless LCD and plasma screens and a growing number of personal units that deliver music, news, entertainment and more.

Most of the notebooks still use the aging and overweight Windows OS but there are a growing number of systems that include InstantON Linux-based solutions. Sony recently introduced several of these sweethearts (only available in Japan). While their solutions are all based on embedded software from those folks who gave you WinDVD, there are similar InstantON solutions from Toshiba, Fujitsu, HP, Sharp and probably a lot more firms. These companies understand that people don't expect their entertainment system to require 10 minutes to wake up, stretch and begin moving.

It's just one of the many problems MS will have to overcome to win their place in the living room. Of course their solution is delightfully simple. Don't turn the computer off… EVER!!!!


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