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 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…



Microsoft announces XBox marketplace for living rooms

8 11 2006

Microsoft made huge waves yesterday after announcing that they will be offering XBox Live Marketplace to users in late 2006- early 2007.  The XBox 360, which has done reasonably well across the United States, will have the ability to download movies and TV shows from a browser straight onto its hard drive.  Microsoft plans on adding this content after it has made partnerships with most studios and such.

Microsoft made a great move in announcing this product at the time that it did.  Apple iTV has been very vocal about that fact that it will release in early 2007 for $299.  The iTV plans on bringing iTunes to the living room by being able to download shows and movies straight onto your hard drive.

Microsoft has set the stage however by indicating that 20% of its content will be provided in High Def.  It will be interesting to see how Apple responds to this.  They’ve indicated that rentals will be around 2 dollars and purchasing shows will be around 3-7 dollars.

Just my $.02…


Blockbuster – I’m not moving anywhere to rent my movies…

19 07 2006

Well if you’ve read some of the tech news today, you may have seen that Apple Itunes announced that it will be offering download-able rental movies. The structure will be that you can probably purchase a movie from the iTunes store and it will terminate automatically after a certain number of views/time period. The question, that everyone asked themselves today was obvious – are you going to do it?

I think it’s very interesting to see how technology really does one thing in our lives. It makes us significantly lazier. I wouldn’t consider the drive thru, “technology” but I always found it hilarious that we’ve become a society that needs to not get outside in the open world in order to purchase a meal. Being an Industrial Engineer, however, I’m not going to complain when there are ways to optimize a process.

As an avid movie watcher, I definitely make it out to the movie theaters a decent number of times. It’s true, I enjoy watching movies on my laptop by myself but the experience of watching a movie like LOTR or Star Wars or even Superman returns in a theater cannot be replicated by a 14.1″ XVGA screen. I do, however, enjoy being economical, and because of that – I feel many times to watch movies on my computer – sometimes downloaded through random sites. When it comes to actually renting a movie, I feel like I may actually give in and do it – but this is contingent on a couple of things:

  • Pricing Structure – If there exists a tiered pricing stucture based on number of views/days viewed/etc, I feel like I would definitely have much more of an incentive than if there were a single flat fee which would exceed 3-4 dollars.
  • Fraud – I assume that Apple has thought this through – but there are so many programs out there that can record everything that comes on your screen and through your sound card. Piracy, I feel, could go through the roof with something like this.
  • Speed – unless you have a high bandwith Internet connection (which most of us do), this thing would take days to download. I’m sure apple will have a protected media format to ensure that people don’t burn these – but I don’t know.

Things to consider for the future – who else would enter the market? I read somewhere today that people feel like Google should enter this niche. I’m sure they’ve already thought about it but they could buy a medium sized studio and start offering movies off of their relatively slow growing “google Video” platform. What about companies like YouTube that offer free videos to everyone, regardless of copyright issues. In my opinion, this is a huge step for media and Internet and as we move forward, we’ll see how our entertainment systems will begin to start becoming one huge system.

So now the question is for everyone reading this…would you actually buy it? If you would, how much would you buy it for?