What is a media center?

2 04 2007

Microsoft introduced the term “media center” when they launched Windows media player to try and mesh together entertainment with computers.  A decade ago, our society was very segregated in the way that we viewed computer entertainment.  At the purest sense, entertainment generally focused itself around a living room with two couches and a large CRT TV set.  The computer was generally meant solely for computation purposes or office use.  Today, we find ourselves perusing the internet and watching short YouTube clips of last nights TV shows that we may have missed.  The literal and metaphorical boundaries between the entertainment “center” in the living room and the computer in the office room cease to exist in today’s world. 

Yet there are still some limitations that exist between watching a youtube clip versus watching a full HD Blu-ray DVD of James Bond’s Casino Royale on a 70 inch plasma screen.  Given the very nature of the computer, will we ever see a full transition to a completely integrated office/living room entertainment center?  We can look in the past and see some failed attempts at integration in determining possible successes in the future. 

WebTV

WebTV came out in the 90’s and was integrated into Microsoft’s product line to attempt to connect your TV to the internet.  Needless to say, simply checking your email on a much larger TV did not really appeal to the mass public.  Perhaps it was the funky wireless keyboard or the proximity of the screen, this never really took off.  After all, when you can hook up a $400 desktop to a 32″ LCD screen, why not just do that?  Oracle had also attempted to integrate a low cost web surfing device from your living room.  Both of these solutions failed to gain mass approval.

So how do you rectify a failed product like WebTV?  How can you effectively integrate the internet into an entertainment center in the living room.  Microsoft believes that it exists in the gaming consoles.  They launched the XBox360 with full browser capabilities and online marketplaces (which I wrote about in an earlier post) to attempt to bring together the a integrated solution. 

But the real question is…where is apple in all of this?

The reason for this post was to speak about Apple’s iTV.  This was announced at MacWorld and was definitely a bit overshadowed by the iPhone.  Nonetheless, the product streams all of your media content from your network into your living room.  This means that all of your “legal” downloaded content that you got from iTunes/BitTorrent can be viewed on your living room TV.  If your willing to hedge out the money for Apple’s HD content on iTunes, you can stream it onto your HD screen which is the real advantage.  Here is what it looks like:

Let’s see how this does….but it should be interesting if this is the first step to really changing the landscape of media entertainment.

Just my $.02…

-SD

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