The age of the Media Hub?

About 2 years ago Apple and Sony were announcing their visions of the PC as the center of your home entertainment (so-called Media Hubs.)

Apple has clearly taken the lead with the strong momentum behind iPod/iTunes, but today, in true Microsoft form, they’re upping the ante with WindowsXP MediaCenter 2005:

(Of note: HDTV, extender boxes bridge access to other rooms, and sync capabilities with portable media devices including smartphones.)

From a UI innovation perspective I think this is pretty profound, but we’ll have to wait and see the acceptance. Although a hefty investment, it seems in-line with the home-theater trend. (I remember when a $10k TV was actually considered crazy.)

Are we finally experiencing the “convergence” promise of the early 90’s?

know what your saying. early 90’s i was doing my own version as potential thesis. may be getting there. but still not the vision i had. to me the promise of the device was that it was either “invisible” or furniture/sculpture. we’re still stuck with a box. probably with cords and wires, too.

on the interactive side, where are the wireless accessories? the remote? the i-glasses? the voice recognition? etc? where’s the Home Management software and interface? how do i program my robot vacuum to work while i’m gone? where’s the sensors in my fridge that tell the Center my milk is bad, which emails my office PC to tell me to stop and pick up milk?

we still have pieces.



I think the major barriers to adoption are the difficulty of tranporting media from one platform to another and the lack of any real “pain” to the user. My iPod/Sound dock handles music, my TIVO/OnDemand combination does TV/Video and I use my laptop for email, work, internet access and CAD. Could they be consolidated? sure. Would the consolidation add meaningful value? not yet.

When the following things happen it might be worth while:


  1. Media interoprability - I want to use my iPod, my TIVO, and my Playstation 2 and dont want to worry about competing DRM schemes. DRM is neccesary, but there needs to be some kind of standardization for everything to work seamlessly. Unfortunately, the competing setups force a domestic “vertical integration” where i have to make tradeoffs between aspects (go with microsoft - tivo to go, “easy” integration between PC/TV, but terrible music options, Apple - great music, no integration with TV forces you into a Mac.

  2. Whats the point? - Media center creators need to answer this question before the hubs become anything other than the 21st century equivalent of running model trains with an Altair. Can i easily transfer my episodes of “24” to my iPod? When im on my treadmill does my computer know to up the tempo of my music when I’m geting tired? Can I search for something (info about the civil war) on Google and get web page results, streaming music from the period in iTunes, and Ken Burn’s documentary loaded onto my TV? when this is possible people will adopt the technology at a much greater rate.