Linked by Nicholas Blachford on Tue 9th Dec 2003 18:54 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems At Genesi we do more than just alternative computers, we also have interests in the field of Digital Media and Digital Television, you'll see products targeted to these segments arriving in the future. Most people appear to think that the future of Digital Media is convergence, that it is inevitable that TVs and Computers are going to converge and become a single device. Some people however think that this will not happen, they may have good reason for thinking so.
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exactly
by chemicalscum on Tue 9th Dec 2003 19:05 UTC

exactly

Already happened for me...
by Bascule on Tue 9th Dec 2003 19:20 UTC

My computer is my television. I have a home theater setup with a projector that also functions as a television, but I rarely use it for that purpose. I simply see computers taking on more and more functionality side by side with systems specifically suited to a single task.

Ultimately, the computer will simply be a more versatile single user device whereas the normal television/home theater setup will be less versatile but easier and less time consuming to operate, and targeted towards multiple users.

No Way
by Cheapskate on Tue 9th Dec 2003 19:26 UTC

i like keeping my computer seperate from my computer so kids can watch whatever they want in another room, but the idea is not totally bad, a computer can have a PCI TV card, and a television can be made internet aware for basic surfing and email, but i do not reccomend completely merging the two...

Convergence will happen with the integrated Music/Video/PVR players, as component of the home entertainment system. That's already happening.

Here, the mutil-use concept of the TV is less of an issue as it is used as a group entertainment system, and both music and video can be used in that medium.

So, I think having a machine that will rip CDs, play/burn DVDs, play and organize MP3s, and act as a PVR, and you'll have a singular component that will work in most anyones home. Make it networkable if only to be able to upload music more easily, but even if it could suck 'em off of CDs without a Network, it would still be useable. Plug this thing into your surround sound reciever/AM/FM tuner and you're done.

The next trick is to be able to sell an item that will integrate well with Digital Cable and Satellite decoders. Right now, the integrated PVR/Satellite recievers are VASTLY more convenient than seperate pieces. But it's a question whether the DTV/Cable companies want to potentially give up that kind of control.

Hmmm
by Anonymous on Tue 9th Dec 2003 19:48 UTC

Toeing down the hypothetical lane - consider a computer you hooked up to your television similarly to the way you hook up your VCR or DVD player. Through a dedicated connection between the computer and television set (not the standard RF or even S-video, but through a new port specifically designed for the purpose and a PCI card with the same port). The amount of interoperability between the two would be tremendous given enough creativity and ingenuity, and both would remain standalone - and therefore the television would never crash, you could always watch television/cable/record via vcr, etc. - the computer alone crashes.

That doesn't solve the issue with multifunctioning devices - doing too many things at once could cause issues (playing games while recording). Television solved that one ages ago, out of necessity simply because there was no other option. We get so caught up in multifunction devices that we forget the convinience and reliability of dedicated devices. Seperate hardware performing seperate tasks. In that scenario, while typically more expensive, the idea of something digitally conflicting or one thing crashing another or slowing the other down becomes a fairly moot point - as long as the other device performs a very simple operation on the data being sent to it, and performs that function easily regardless of the data being sent to it (eg, a recorder will record garbage just fine, it doesn't care, it'll record anyway.). The more complex and complicated you make it, the more likely it is to stop functioning or function improperly.

I don't think the future has anything to do with making televisions and computers congruent items. I think it lays in making the more interoperable, either by my suggestions or a completely alternate route altogether.

Just my 2:)

Same as cheapskate
by arthur on Tue 9th Dec 2003 19:54 UTC

I am of the same thought as cheapskate; I have all the hardware and softwares to intergrate the two but chose not to. Hey a computer can enhance the use of the TV but not for me, at least not yet.

Article is not well thought out...
by Jeff on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:05 UTC

-->If the box has a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) function
-->then it absolutely has to keep working. It can't pause,
-->it can't skip frames, it must keep working irrespective
-->of what else the box is doing. Playing a game on a box
-->with a PVR task running will at best lead to a
-->compromised game.

This is not really true. I have a 2.4GHz box with 256mb of RAM. It has a mpeg-2 hardware encoder (WinTV PVR 250) and a copy of Snapstream PVS. When I play games like Unreal Tournment 2003 or Battlefield 1942 I have no loss in performance. I've even recorded two shows at once with SageTV while playing the "latest" games without even a problem.

The real question shouldn't be if or when TV and computer converge, but what format will become the most popular or will we have another hauppage of different standards.

I've also predicted this
by Bill Cannon on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:11 UTC

The television is not a very useful device these days. That's not my point, however.

My point is that this display, a display of converging systems, must absolutely be an input device, a touchscreen. The gui's must become 'predictive adaptive'. We cannot count on the providers of the content to achieve this. We can only count on some sharp individuals to do it, and this will only happen if it is not somehow made impossible by the powers that be. We must fight for the right to control the gui, and thereby, the content.

Hmm again
by Anonymous on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:19 UTC

What if the computer and television remained completely seperate devices - but they could access eachother. "Hey, it's a commercial, let's see what's new on osnews.". Have a small trackball attatched to the remote (you could even have it be a completely seperate attachment that you just clip onto or otherwise attach), and while you couldn't type anything in (a keyboard, come on. You could but they're so cumbersome and do you really want to have to drag one out when you're in the livingroom?), you could get to your favorites, play a movie you have in your dvd player, check to see if you're done downloading/compiling yet, etc. and flip back over to television when you're done. You could even open some sort of ViVo style program to control your television. Wouldn't be too hard to do through your standard television - just do it like your old nintendo used to do it, connect a small device to the television and connect your antenna/cable/satellite to the back of that - then a small box that recieves remote input could control your mouse and control the computer feed into the television, among other things. And your computer is still your computer - walk over and do whatever you want with it, you still have your main setup with keyboard, mouse, monitor, & computer.

Perhaps it's not convinient for everyone, with all the wires and all - but for me it's perfectly convinient, the television is just over in the next room from me.

Opinions, opinions, opinions...
by Mr. Cancelled on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:35 UTC

Speaking as someone who's built, and has been running a dedicated PVR/gaming machine for about 11/2 years now, I can honestly say despite what some people think, this is already happening.

But like anything having to do with computers, there's no "one best way", nor is it going to be for everyone.

Me, I love to be able to download TV shows I can't see (Satellite equals no network TV for me!), and movies or videos of bands from far away places.

Additionally, being able to record shows at next to DVD quality (when needed), or less (again, when needed... VCD quality vs. DVD, for example) is great, and has allowed me to more or less relegate my VCR to a playback only device.

Yes, there are all-in-one solutions out there, but mine avoids copy protection, provides superior image quality, and allows me to play tons of games on my big screen. Try doing that with a Tivo (Not that Tivo's don't also offer some unique benefits!)

Long story short, this article, like many is just full of opinions, and opinions are like ***holes... Everyone has one. 8)=

For those who want it, convergence is now!

don't hold your breath
by 疯狂的人 on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:49 UTC

there is NO DRIVING MARKET NEED for convergence...

(what problem does it solve?)
(who is crying out for it?)

In reality...

THERE IS A GIANT GROUP OF INDUSTRIES THAT DO NOT WANT CONVERGENCE

namely the TV/MOVIE/MUSIC/BROADCAST/etc industries.

The USA is having a hard time just making the move to more pixels (HDTV). The above industries even had to obsolete all the HDTV units that had already been sold because they wanted more copy protection. In the USA there are 18 kinds of HDTV. I don't know if you've had HDTV, but I have. I wouldn't spend any money on HDTV again until at least 2007 plus a few years to make sure it all works. The original HDTV was a lie.

Everyone knows it will take a long time to get to HDTV. It would be a miracle if any sort of substantial "convergence" happens before then.

WebTivo will solve 90% of what people want and that doesn't require anything fancy. Just a little web server in the Tivo box, maybe support a few web service API's to handle remote programming / interfacing.

Don't people remember "Interactive TV". This so-called "convergence" is just the new name for "Interactive TV". It's a solution in need of a problem. Hopefully "anti-terrorism" won't be the problem... and government monitoring of all viewed content the solution...

TV-on-demand
by -=StephenB=- on Tue 9th Dec 2003 20:54 UTC

Personally, I'm much more interested in TV-on-demand than PVRs. As I see it, PVRs are in many way a workaround to counter the lack of TV-on-demand offerings. I want to be able to, at any time, go to my TV and be able to key in that I want to watch last night's Daily Show or some random Simpsons re-run, wait a short while as it's transferred to my set-top box. Advertisements could actually be relevant to the content in this kind of scenario and could offer a more clear benefit to the user. eg. you select a Simpsons episode and a message comes up saying if you watch a short advert for a boxed set of Simpsons DVDs or something, the episode will only cost you 15 cents to donwload instead of 20.

But in the meantime, there's always BitTorrent and Usenet.

RE: Hmmmm
by null_pointer_us on Tue 9th Dec 2003 21:01 UTC

Forget the dedicated port idea - just put a firewire or USB port on the TV and give me a standardized "USB TV Device" interface that could be used to change channels, lock the remote during recording, power the TV on and off, etc. If I want to record something I'd still have to buy a separate card for that, but the USB TV interface could allow a DVR program on the PC to manipulate.

As for dealing with satellite systems and external cable boxes, just put the same interface on them, too. Maybe even put a status flag on the interface to provide feedback to the software as to whether or not the "USB TV Device" has a screen, etc., so it could record just as easily from a satellite receiver as from a TV that's using a built-in tuner.

All this stuff about putting computers in TVs and TVs in computers seems silly. The future is not in convergance but in networking and standard interfaces. The time will come when networks are dead-easy to configure (rendezvous, anyone?), ubiquitous, and compatible with nearly everything else.

Computers are great precisely because they are _programmable_, not because they can be put in a refridgerator with a modem to dial up the grocery store when you're running low on beer. All you really need for that is a wireless networking device, a standard for interacting with refridgerators, and a standard for contacting grocery stores securely over the Internet. Let me handle the connection, the options, etc. on my home network.

not even going to remotely happen until...
by Anonymous on Tue 9th Dec 2003 21:26 UTC

This will not happen until tv systems can match the resolution of a computer monitor: at least 1600x1200 on a 21" screen. Considering the size of the average TV set the resolution needed to match that on a computer screen should be much higher than even 1600x1200. Currently even HDTV is not even close to these figures. Considering the US hasn't even embraced HDTV on a large scale basis yet, this "when" in the US will probably be a very long time coming. In short, don't hold your breath.

Piracy will drive PC's into the living room
by Jonas on Tue 9th Dec 2003 21:27 UTC

I think piracy will be main factor for PC's as living room entertainment center. I don't think consumer products from Sony, Panaconic etc. will play material domloaded form p2p networks in the future. But that not the real problem, A PC based system let you access p2p network directly i your living room, with fast internet connections, you coud play movies and music as you download it, all that is holding this back is A smart developer making A p2p client that plugs in to the current software for PC entertainment centers like myHTPC (http://myhtpc.net/) or MythTV (http://www.mythtv.org/). The consumer producers can't match that, it's sad but I thik it's true.

/Jonas

Computer, Tv, what's the difference ?
by zorgy_82 on Tue 9th Dec 2003 21:35 UTC

All you guys are saying is that Computers will become are TVs, or vise versa! But what is a computer, ain't it already a TV, but one that you completly control ??? Internet would be the program you usualy watch, but you decide what you see and when (always pop-ups in exeption), games become the console that you have, DVDs, mpeg, avi, are the video tapes or dvds, Chatting programs your phone etc. Ok there's more but you get it, don't you ? So what do you expect more from a computer (TV oriented) ??

hm,
by frank on Tue 9th Dec 2003 21:48 UTC

sounds like met@box....nothing different.

Yes, the japanese CE Manufactures will take the drivers seat. They founded or being members of www.celinuxforum.org/PressRelease/pr03.htm , so it will be open based on linux with the following companies : itachi, Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd, NEC Corporation, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Sharp Corporation, Sony Corporation, Toshiba Corporation,IBM, Hewlett-Packard Company, LG Electronics Inc., Motorola and Nokia Corporation. No need for closed Systems. The Giants are committed on an OpenSource System. Tux will take the chair. Its clear, who drives the car.
Watch out, you can easily see the rise of products by panasonic, sony and toshiba, today.
krgds
frank

Law
by Dave on Tue 9th Dec 2003 22:23 UTC

While Nicholas and most of the comments mention the technological aspects of the problem, only one person brought up the commercial and legal issues.

These provide a much greater impact on the issue of convergence than product features and limitations alone. The development of DRM hardware schemes and the new FCC mandate on the Broadcast Flag signal are attempts at making convergence "allowable". It has little to do with the possibility of such devices existing, and everything to do with whether the "content providers" can be gauranteed a secure revenue stream.

By the way, who is the moderator without a sense of humor? Is that ELQ or one of the readers?

Preaching to who?
by TC on Tue 9th Dec 2003 22:26 UTC

*sigh*. This writer makes it seem as if he's coming out with a revolutionary idea. Current file formats aside, implementations have been around for nearly a decade! See WebTV, for example. Sure, a lot has changed since WebTV days, but it was one of the first consumer devices to have a hard drive and supported at least a dozen file formats. I've been working in this space for nearly 7 years and countless companies have come and gone, and still dozens are still around working on this idea. There are 900 downloads to the latest VIA EPIA Linux patch - that's like saying that there are 900 people working on this idea - not to mention the ones who work on WinCE, XP embedded, or other custom / generic x86/ARM/MIP processor based motherboards.

So do I need to say it? You're preaching to the choir!

@bill cannon
by Anonymous on Tue 9th Dec 2003 22:42 UTC

i have no idea what your point was, can you dumb it down a bit?

(the only thing i understood was "touchscreen"...and while those work for taking out cash, no one wants to be waving their arm in the air punching at a display for 5min to 30 min at a time)

online interactive gambling:
by Donny S on Tue 9th Dec 2003 22:44 UTC

With M$ getting a slice of every transaction, that might be a big revenue generator for them in 3 years time, and no one is going to be allowed to compete with them. The morphing of PC into the ultimate gaming/propaganda box is well under way, and consumers will likely want to participate when the cost drops to a reasonable level.

More content...
by john on Tue 9th Dec 2003 22:50 UTC

Are there more sites out there like thebasement.com.au?
When I tire of my web research, I go there to listen to music, watch videos and email in comments. My pc is my mtv.
With true standards, ubiquitous wireless boadband, the next compression format and digital paper, I suspect we won't even be talking about this convergence thing in 5 years.
But please give me good content.

Re: I've also predicted this
by The Pessimist on Tue 9th Dec 2003 23:19 UTC

First, what a pretentious title... There may be only 4 or 5 people in the world who haven't see that coming, still we do not go all together in the street yelling "I predicted the obvious ! I predicted the obvious !"

"The television is not a very useful device these days. That's not my point, however."

??? not very useful as in "used by billions of people around the world on a daily basis" ?

"My point is that this display, a display of converging systems, must absolutely be an input device, a touchscreen."

It's like if I'm saying "the computer of the futur will be primarily defined by a fourth button on the mouse". Who cares ? That's only accessory to the whole idea/concept.

"The gui's must become 'predictive adaptive'. We cannot count on the providers of the content to achieve this. We can only count on some sharp individuals to do it, and this will only happen if it is not somehow made impossible by the powers that be. We must fight for the right to control the gui, and thereby, the content."

What is the connection between GUI and content ? The GUI is barely a support to display content. A presentation service. Look at the internet : most of the architectures has been provided by corporations : HTML, JAVA, C#, etc yet the content is still in total freedom.

don't see it happening anytime soon
by Roy on Tue 9th Dec 2003 23:40 UTC

I really don't see the traditional computer and TV merging into one. The form factors just don't work out. To write a letter or surf the web, you are using a keyboard and mouse and need to be able to read lots of text, so you need to be close to the screen. With a TV, you generally want to sit back comfortably and use a small remote to control your viewing. That said, I think that TV boxes (PVRs) will become more functional in a computery way. Playing audio and video from a home network or the internet will become common on set-top boxes. Also, I suspect interfaces for doing things like getting a weather forecast, ordering pizza, and buying movie tickets, will make their way onto set-top boxes (these interfaces could be made remote control friendly).

simple is nice to
by Brad on Wed 10th Dec 2003 00:45 UTC

Yes merging these things can be nice, but at the same time I like my tv being just a tv, no computer, I turn it on and click through channels. For somethings i would like to have a save to computer funtion. But I also want my tv to stay simple. I think most people would feel the same. Intergrating lots of things into one becomes anoying at times. For some things having stand alone stuff is nice. How many people even have there tv connected to a stero reciver or anything like that, not the majority of people. For most just a tv and a vcr or dvd player is fine. Giving people more functions tends to just overwell them and get in the way of the simple things they do 99% of the time.

I'm sure there is a market for this out there, but most definitly will not take over any time soon. I would like a MS MCE box connected to my tv at times, but I know for most people that would be a headack.

I also have to wonder how networks will change from these devices. I understand people wanting tivos, but at the same time if everyone has tivos and is watching all tv recorded and skipping commercials then something will change, and it won't be good. Furthermore if channels like Discovery or TLC and the like find they can't get ad review or sell the episodes on dvd because everyone has them on there computer they might just say the heck with things. To make up for losses they will have to go to a more subscribtion based method which means bigger cable bill. Or they will start embedding ads into the veiwing, big popups around the edges of the screen.

Though if the cable pricing stucture was changed and there was no commercials and you paid by the channel and picked what channels you got one by one, that might not be to bad, but tv with no commercials would still be hella expensive.

RE: simple is nice to
by null_pointer_us on Wed 10th Dec 2003 00:53 UTC

> Brad: Though if the cable pricing stucture was changed and there was no commercials and you paid by the channel and picked what channels you got one by one, that might not be to bad, but tv with no commercials would still be hella expensive.

Yeah, I agree with that. I like most of my cable bill being paid by the mindless masses of impulse buyers. :-)

Of course, I still don't like the commercials...

To me, this is common sense
by deathshadow on Wed 10th Dec 2003 05:44 UTC

But common sense is often lacking in the industry.

I live alone, don't need to share the TV with anyone, and it STILL makes sense to keep them separate for me. As I'm browsing the web right now, I'm watching TV... on my TV. While I do use the computer as my DVD player, I have the TV setup as the secondary monitor under windows, so I can still use the computer while watching DVD's without shrinking it down to a tiny little box. Even then, I'm considering getting a separate player for the TV so when I hit compile in Delphi or want to empty the recycle bin the DVD doesn't jump like crazy.

As it is, I'm eying my two old 17" monitors and thinking about making an Echelon V on the desktop with two old Trident 9440 boards. Reducing everything down to one screen is the exact opposite of anything I'd want to do, although being able to display images from the computer on the TV is nice, I don't want to replace my TV with my monitor. I use both at the same time. If I'm sitting here coding or playing a game, I often like to have the TV going as well; My computer isn't the only device in the house that can multitask.

STS are cheaper, easier and more flexible
by Steffo on Wed 10th Dec 2003 09:28 UTC

Think about how expensive it would be if "the integrated" solution would break. You would eighter have to buy a new one or get it repaired.

Single task solutions (STS) are often cheaper, for instance, compare the price of a DVD-player to the price of a computer. If it breaks, no finacial crisis, just buy a new one.

STS are often also more flexible and easier to use. Just plug in your DVD-player and it works. No need to install OS:s or compile programs. No problems using several STS at the same time.

I'll just stick with the STS, for now anyway.

Re: don't see it happening anytim soon
by Daniel Miller on Wed 10th Dec 2003 12:01 UTC

Roys says: "I really don't see the traditional computer and TV merging into one. The form factors just don't work out."

No wait, the form factor is almost certainly going to be a small "box" whether a set-top box or stereo-component-style box. There's nothing that won't work out about that. Another possible route would be a TV with built-in device which would be more of an engineering and production challenge but not insurmountable in any way. The STB is most likely IMO.

Roy says: "To write a letter or surf the web, you are using a keyboard and mouse and need to be able to read lots of text, so you need to be close to the screen. With a TV, you generally want to sit back comfortably and use a small remote to control your viewing."

Not necessarily must one sit close to the screen for a computing experience, or sit way back to watch TV news or a movie. You refer to what people are used to. But people can change and then young people often come to do stuff in new ways. And really the arrangement of furniture can facilitate the user being able to do either, to have a choice. In my case I have a 17 inch LCD monitor which I use for a computer and TV set. The only thing I have to do is roll a chair forward to sit down and type something, this message for instance. In a few minutes I'll push the chair out of the way and set local TV news to full-screen.

The issue of a remote control... I think that there needs to be a remote device that people can sit back on the couch with, but it doesn't have to be a tiny little remote. It could be a keyboard with trackball. I've stayed at hotels where they offered an Internet device on the TVs. The only way to use it really was to sit back on the bed with the remote keyboard in your lap. The arrangement needed some improvement but it was totally workable. I typed emails and stuff without any real issues. You don't have to sit at a desk to type an email.

That said, I think that TV boxes (PVRs) will become more functional in a computery way. Playing audio and video from a home network or the internet will become common on set-top boxes. Also, I suspect interfaces for doing things like getting a weather forecast, ordering pizza, and buying movie tickets, will make their way onto set-top boxes (these interfaces could be made remote control friendly).

The only other comment I'd make in this long post is that TVs are not necessarily going to have lower resolution than computer monitors for much longer. There could be a convergence there as well. LCD monitors and LCD TVs are becoming more available, and what is the differnence between the two? Not much, really!

How does this sound?
by bbrv on Wed 10th Dec 2003 13:25 UTC

<snip>

"The Pegasos is building block #1 to any competent computing environment and the necessary tool required by the developer support enlisted to customize the platform for consumer use. A Pegasos computer is a desktop machine. A Pegasos computer enclosed in a fan-less VCR-like size case becomes a consumer product: a black box. The Pegasos operates equally well with a television screen or a computer monitor. The Pegasos comes with its own file sharing and downloading/streaming programs -- music, movies, video games a preference is selected, a source found, the entertainment begins. The technology is invisible to the entertainment experience. The consumer manages the experience through an easily understood user interface with a remote control or through a web browser and a keyboard for more sophisticated users."

<snip>

Hollywood has a problem. Could this be a gateway to a whole new world of entertainment? If they get behind it, it could be. By leaving content and network connected the viewer can have what they want when they want it, but the creative people behind it still have control of their creation -- hotmail to hotmovie. Is it time to get rid of the CD and basically network enable all digital distribution? It seems to be working with the iPod. Ask yourself why the big computer distributors are selling big screen televisions. In the meanwhile, there are other things happening too. We know of six television shows being seen by at least 30 million users each week that cost well under $1000/hour to produce. All the editing is done on workstation and with a click the shows are uploaded to the server and delivered to the network. Back on the television the user gets what they want when they want it. In fact, audience and artist can communicate directly this way. Affinity channels can be established, etc., etc. As broadband and connectivity improve the scenario is inevitable. The question becomes who gets there first and with what.

:-)

R&B

A bunch of points
by Moochman on Wed 10th Dec 2003 14:04 UTC

First of all, to point out a couple of omissions by the author: A pointing stick on the remote, or a wireless optical mouse (possibly w/remote features built in) would also be excellent solutions to the pointer issue. Also, I don't understand why he sees a problem with playing a game and a DVD at the same time. How would this be possible, much less desirable, on a single TV? Since he seems to be advocating one machine per TV, I don't see how this could possibly be an issue, and therefore there is after all no reason that two drives would be necessary (except for DVD copying).

Now for my opinion on the issue: Sorry to the naysayers, but I have to agree with this article that convergence WILL happen, and I think the author's example of cell phones sets an excellent precedent. It's not going to be about trying to combine the two devices all at once, it's going to happen through the gradual addition of computer features to set top boxes (as with the gradual addition of PDA features to cell phones.

In fact, whether people realize it or not, these "converged" consumer electronic devices already exist (and I'm NOT talking about Windows Media Center). A few months ago I visited the "IFA" technology convention in Berlin, and Panasonic was exhibiting DVD players that NOW exist, which play and record DVDs (DVD-RAM format, I believe, which I'm a fan of because the casing protects from scratces), it also has flash memory slots to view and edit pictures, and allows burning those on CD/DVD, it also has a PVR, which can then record the programs on DVD (I'm not sure if it has a direct DVD-recording function, but I'd imagine it probably does). I believe it even has rudimentary video editing so you can prep the recorded material before burning the DVD. If you were to add in an ethernet port and the proper internet/email/network software, you'd end up with as much functionality as a computer would give you, short of playing games and writing papers, tasks that are better relegated to consoles or computers anyway.

I for one see enormous potential here. These multiple functions do belong together in such devices, because they are easier to use and more integrated than is the case with computers, even if people stuck in a computer-centric world view can't envision it. I'd also like to point out that however well people have gotten their computers to work as PVRs, a CPU-based recording approach will always have a MUCH greater chance of interrupted video recording, as well as general performance degradation, than a solution that uses a dedicated video-encoding processor.

RE: simple is nice
by Moochman on Wed 10th Dec 2003 14:28 UTC

I also have to wonder how networks will change from these devices. I understand people wanting tivos, but at the same time if everyone has tivos and is watching all tv recorded and skipping commercials then something will change, and it won't be good. Furthermore if channels like Discovery or TLC and the like find they can't get ad review or sell the episodes on dvd because everyone has them on there computer they might just say the heck with things. To make up for losses they will have to go to a more subscribtion based method which means bigger cable bill. Or they will start embedding ads into the veiwing, big popups around the edges of the screen.

This is the most insightful point I've heard in a long time. The issues associated with mass-avoiding of advertisements, combined with digital rights management issues, are potentially the two greatest barriers to the future of digital recording.

While digital technology has the potential to expand the user's experience, it also has the potential to limit it.

MythTV Baby!!!!!!!
by snorkel on Wed 10th Dec 2003 14:31 UTC

I have been using MythTV with a hauppage PVR 350 for a couple of months now and I love it.

www.mythtv.org

It has been incredibly stable considering the drivers for the PVR 350 are beta.

With MythTV I can recored tv like a Tivo, watch live tv and pause it etc etc, and I can play DVDs, VCDs, MP3/OGG, and it has a really nice weather module.

Example
by Don Cox on Wed 10th Dec 2003 15:34 UTC

Here is a review of an example of a convergence machine that you can buy now:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/54/34205.html

Medium is the Message
by Ranty on Wed 10th Dec 2003 16:11 UTC


Due to the article's author's allegiances--that is not disparagement--there may a slant toward the tech toy aspect. But "the medium is the message." The "medium" referenced here is not a machine, not a computer, nor a TV. Not a box. The "medium" is the internet, or TV programmin--in other words, "content".

One poster, "Dave", said this above:
>>It has little to do with the possibility of such devices existing, and everything to do with whether the "content providers" can be gauranteed a secure revenue stream.<<

This is all that's going on. Where there is or may be a money stream, technology will follow. What kind of box sells you the glop purveyed is all but irrelevant. What will converge--someday--isn't the computer and the TV, but rather "TV content", i-e, broadcast, cable, satellite programming, and the internet.

There will come a day when what you see on TV will be received via the internet. The "democratization" of technology--which really exists in video, music, publishing
--will allow millions of people to creat broadcast content at home, or in cheap studios, and send it out over the internet. Over in the next internet address will be CBS, or Discover. You think local cable access stuff is funky? Just wait.

We are now seeing the first "convergence" of mediums: putting your (home) phone service on the internet, (e-g, Vonage) which before real broadband has been wanting in quality. There is already, need I mention, a convergence of cellphone service and internet. The phone compnaies have found ways to charge for many different services--from games to email. The bell ringer's song may be free to download, but the time to do so is not.


What's missing from this Great Convergence is universal broadband (preferably optical). Broadband is the medium, not the box that receives the "content". Selling broadband itself, aside from selling advertising (that good old "business model") during the programming, is an end in itself, subject to price gouging. You cannot get commodity-priced broadband (or cellphone service). Until this "revolution" in broadband occurs there will be no convergence of mediums (media).

Thanks to the author and posters for the interesting discussion.

Castles in the Sand
by JP on Wed 10th Dec 2003 16:11 UTC

One problem I see with convergence attempts today is the rapid obsolescense of so many of the components.

Start with the display. HDTV based on DLP looks great to me; but there are still plenty of competing technologies. Who can tell which will win? They are all expensive; and what is worse, we already hear rumblings HDTV isn't really high enough resolution anyway.

Next consider local storage. CDs and DVDs not based on "blue laser" seem destined for the scrap heap as we already see their storage densities cannot compete with what is coming. Also the quality standards for DVD lack rigor; so DVD technical signal quality is often not that great (e.g. due to careless overzealous compression).

Next consider networking. Remember those wireless tranmission speeds are expressed in BITS per second not BYTES per second. Nuff said.

So what I see looks highly vulnerable to being obsolete (or already is obsolute); and so the prices they want for this stuff just looks ridiculous to me. How much are we supposed to pay for castles in the sand?

In fact I just bought a 32" non-HDTV TV on the cheap kind of as a stubborn bet the supposed mandatory HDTV deadline won't happen as scheduled.

Medium is the Message
by Moochman on Wed 10th Dec 2003 18:00 UTC

There will come a day when what you see on TV will be received via the internet. The "democratization" of technology--which really exists in video, music, publishing
--will allow millions of people to creat broadcast content at home, or in cheap studios, and send it out over the internet. Over in the next internet address will be CBS, or Discover. You think local cable access stuff is funky? Just wait.


Well, you certainly are optimistic. If the trends taking place on the internet are any sign, I expect the exact opposite to happen. Commercial content will be pushed; public content subdued. This is related to money. Whoever has the most money has the best chance of getting their stuff to be seen by the world. This hasn't changed on the internet. If you want to share information, you have to either use a site like Geocities--limited in every way--or pay for a domain name and hosting. Sure, you could set up your own web server, but that means you're paying for the equipment and it probably won't be capable of handling large amounts of traffic (unless you manage to make money through banner ads and gradually upgrade). But worse is that the firewalls associated with consumer broadband today often prevent users from setting up their computers as web servers. So then you're totally out of luck.

Democratization in a pure, non-money-linked form does not exist on the internet now and will continue to exist less and less as corporations gain a hold on new technologies and begin to control them more and more. This trend is already visible with digital rights management for audio and video content. If you were to be correct in your "convergence of all media" prediction, what makes you think such limits on information access wouldn't be applied to text and image-based media as well? (I might mention that Microsoft has already built up an enormous library of digital artworks, which they probably see as an "investment" for the day when such archives become truly profitable).

The media is the medium
by Ranty on Thu 11th Dec 2003 01:14 UTC

Thanks Moochman for the thoughful response. I tend to agree with you:

>> ...If the trends taking place on the internet are any sign, I expect ... Commercial content will be pushed; public content subdued. This is related to money. Whoever has the most money has the best chance of getting their stuff to be seen by the world<<

But if what has occured in music and video is an indication people will attempt to do-it-themselves, at least for a while. You can cheaply manufacture your own CD album, and distribute it on the net. You could not do this, say, ten years ago. Technology can't be stopped. People will pay for their own broadcast studios themselves, and may eventually try selling advertising. The successful ones will get bought out by broadcasters already in the money, and public content, as you mention, will get squelched.

Yet I still feel the common denominator of expressive opportunities will lower--in this case for the better. As I said above, it can only happen if and when broadband gets cheap. It is no surprise that much of the content is sold by companies also selling broadband--content and its medium are commingled, that's what it means: the medium is the message--the medium OWNS the message. But remove that barrier, and there will be an amazing flood of "free-expression", for better and worse. The only difference from now will be that you will be seeing "talk shows", and, of course, live sex, and home-made animations, tours of homes, "Hiking With Bob", etc. We see it all now, but it will be funky. If broadband gets cheap.

And it won't, if big companies have their way. They want to keep the pitch shrill. Keep watch for strange manipulations of technolgy by the giants, not necessarily conspiratorial, but functioning that way, tantamount to "price-fixing". The car companies once did it; it was called "planned obsolesence". I am not, perhaps, large-thinking enough to explain it better, to give examples, but I have tasted it.


"JP" posting above, if not necessarily in response to me, said something of what I amtrying to say:
>>So what I see looks highly vulnerable to being obsolete (or already is obsolute); and so the prices they want for this stuff just looks ridiculous to me. How much are we supposed to pay for castles in the sand?<<




Re: The media is the medium
by Moochman on Thu 11th Dec 2003 03:12 UTC

I think you're right in many respects; it is true that the internet has been great for independent artists and thinkers in many respects, and many of the trends you refer to already exist (e.g., home-made animations). However, your vision of the future, zany and variety-filled world of broadband-based entertainment still doesn't address a few key issues, such as how, in an internet ever more dominated by large media corporations, individuals will get people to look at their content. Also, what about hosting the content? Since my last post, I looked on Comcast's cable internet website and saw that they provide enough webspace for "multimedia files" such as audio and video, but I'm not sure that it's suitable to serve up broadband content for others, or if it will be suitable in the future.

Nevertheless, I hope things turn out as good or better than your predictions. We'll just have to wait and see, and take action if necessary.