Digital Home Part I

It’s not much of a vision; hardly revolutionary. However I do hope that at least some of my views will come to fruition in the future.

I’ve spent a lot of time working with computers and I’d say I know quite a bit about them. More than your average Joe Blow for sure. For those kinds of the people who use their computers for the internet, email and some word proccessing, they’re still too complicated and take on a sort of ‘geek factor’. They’re not slick and very task-oriented. It’s not like a radio you turn on to have in the background. That’s why I see the computer migrating to a more integral as opposed to a specialty part of the digital home.

I was actually partially prompted to write something on this topic by the launch of the new generation of game consoles. They’re incredibly advanced and incorporate a great deal of feature improvements from the previous generation as well. They’re just another step that brings us closer to what I believe is to be an inevitable place for computers. Instead of the role of internet communication, I believe a modified form of the computer will take the central role in the home theatre/tech centre of our homes.

For the most part the HTPC crowd consists of enthusiasts. They buy specialized HTPC cases and components focused on building quiet, powerful systems to place in their A/V rack and use as DVD players, TiVO, and sound systems all in one. However it’s a very small minority. The people who do this know exactly what they need from their home theatre and the HTPC satisfies their needs. For the most part, you cannot get the same quality of home theatre from a computer as you can from dedicated high end equipment.

A great topic of discussion recently has revolved around the topic of these new generation consoles. Many are saying they’re going to make comupter gaming or perhaps even computers obsolete. They’re basing this one the fact that they’re quite a bit more powerful than PCs and they’re going to be quite a bit cheaper than a top end desktop as well. I for one cannot see it replacing computers in general though. They do not have the communication requirements met. While you can go through cyberspace in the search of other players and friends, you cannot use it as a dedicated internet browser for example. While they may be great inventions for gamers, the majority of computer users are not gamers.

However, they computer industry must recognize the threat that these consoles present. They have the potential to take away a large portion of the gaming community. I do have the feeling they do see the potential of the HTPC. For example Intel has previewed a bunch of tech platforms that have very strong basis in the set-top box arena.

I would much rather have all my multimedia needs met in a single location in the home. Instead of switching back and forth between the home theatre and the PC, both of which are very task specific, a combination of the two would provide a very integrated digital environment. I believe that many people would appreciate this type of setup in the home. But for this to occur we need several hardware and software changes.

The XBOX 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution should all become available within a year or year and a half. Now in their stock form, they’ll be primarily gaming machines, but like the current Xbox, they’ll probably be hacked and modded to perform the duties of a HTPC. They’ll come even closer to what people are looking for. They’ll be sleek, silent and powerful. All they need is more support and they could take out many of the reasons for having a dedicated ‘computer’.

This ends Part I. I’ll be writing up another part on this topic with some specific ideas I have and some things I’d like to see in the future of computers.

Charlie.

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