MY LIVING ROOM

Business 2.0 has an interesting article in the December edition called How Microsoft is Finally Taking the Living Room. In it, IDC analyst Marcel Warmerdam says that Vista will drive about $110 Billion in revenue for other technology firms worldwide as it drives computer upgrades, new types of hardware and new applications:

For example, a Vista feature called Sideshow will make it possible for new laptops to ship with an extra screen on the lid, so users can check their calendar, contacts and email – and even play music – when the rest of the laptop is powered down.

PC Magazine wrote that ReadyDrive will be one of the biggest performance impacting changes (From the Vista site):

Windows ReadyDrive enables Windows Vista PCs equipped with a hybrid hard disk to boot up faster, resume from hibernate in less time, preserve battery power, and improve hard disk reliability. Hybrid hard disks are a new type of hard disk, with integrated non-volatile flash memory.

The hybrid disk is intended for mobile PCs running Windows Vista. Your data is written to the flash memory, which saves work for the mechanical hard disk—saving the battery power. The hybrid disk helps Windows Vista resume faster from Sleep because data can be restored from flash memory faster than from the mechanical hard disk. And since more data is written to the integrated flash memory than to the traditional hard disk, you have less risk of hardware problems with the hard disk when you’re on the move. Windows Vista takes advantage of hybrid hard disk to save battery life, resume use faster from hibernation, and improve reliability.

A few personal observations:

1.       Digital Memories & Vista: I personally believe that the best feature of Windows for the living room is the Media Center Extender technology. In many homes, people have reams of pictures on their laptops or desktops, and music everywhere. If they are an iPod home, little docking stations are scattered around the house or attached to the stereo. In our home, we have a single, newly upgraded Vista Home Premium PCsitting in the kitchen that runs 24/7. On that PC is our music library (About 70GB and 8000 songs), our videos (I have been slowly digitizing our home movies) and our pictures (About 10,000 pictures organized by year).

In the living room, an XBOX 360is attached to the HD TV and an optical cable carries Dolby Digital 5.1 to the stereo. With the simple push of a button, we have access via the TV to all of our music, pictures and videos with a simple and clean remote control based user interface. A few shots of the amazing new Vista interface (Remember, this is what it looks like on a PC or on your TV via the XBOX):

I love the way it scrolls sideways and how you can show them with a date view.
The music view encourages you to ensure that all of your albums have the covers .. and yes, that is Bob Marley. Love Bob Marley.

There is nothing more powerful than having friends over, having instant access to your entire music library – playing in the background while a slide show of our family and life runs randomly on the 57’ inch HD screen. Life is about memories, and when those memories require that you open a photo album, manually attach a video camera or huddle around a computer monitor, they are diminished.

Of interest, I have noticed that Vista extends this capability with a new feature called Media Sharing.  It allows different computers to share their media, automatically finding each other on the network. A handy little feature that makes it easy for you to get to your music, videos, pictures and TV in a much simpler way, on any PC on the home network, than mapping a drive or by sharing folders.

2.       Television: The next logical extension of this is TV. During a recent trip to Costco I noticed that every single PC was a Media Center PC. Companies like Alienware, Dell and Sony (The Digital Living Systemis very cool) are all building unique, TV ready Media Center PC’s. I know many people who are running dual tuner PCs and enjoying the PVR functionality built into the system. The real advantage to this system is the flexibility. They can record a show and watch it on the primary TV, on an XBOX or on a mobile phone.

Personally, my challenge has been HDTV. Until cable cardsupport comes, integrated HDTV can only be acquired via over the air HDTV tuners. What I am wrestling with personally is whether or not I should convert to this. In a recent experiment with these cards, a colleague was able to get 13 over the air HDTV channels with his card, which includes every major broadcaster. It begs the question, if I can get it over the air for free then why pay for it from my cable company?

In the end, one can see where this is going. Every PC with the ability to integrate TV but more importantly, share that TV experience easily.

3.       Upgrades: Marcel was right that it drives upgrades. It was the compelling event that has pushed me to start the home upgrade after a 2 year hiatus. A new PC for the kitchen to act as the Media Center hub for the house and upgrades for the boy’s machines to allow them to play Age of Empires III Warchiefswith no lags.

Exciting times.

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