May 27, 2005
Pretty big statement eh? Some will argue with me on this one and that’s fine, I expect it. However by mid-2006 the home theater landscape will be forever changed by two devices that mimic something a number of us already own, but could hardly be described as user friendly by the majority of consumers.
Interest piqued yet? I hope you’re not disappointed when I get to the point, I promise it’s coming. I alluded to this in an earlier post, but I wanted to go into a little more detail. If you polled a thousand home theater fans I’d bet most of them would describe their experience as passive in nature. This is great don’t get me wrong; the majority of the time I just want to relax and watch a movie, but what if a product could bring a little more to the experience, say a little more hands on than just plopping back on the couch and absorbing what’s on screen?
Ok ok I’m getting there, but I want to make a distinction before I spill it. I’m not talking about something like a cable box with a built in DVR, or anything remotely like WebTV (yuck) which had the processing power of a wounded gnat. No, I’m talking about something with the feature set of a desktop PC and more processing power than many of us use today. Also I should say I don’t fully expect this to be widely embraced overnight. It will be years before the full impact of these devices are felt but trust me it will happen, it’s inevitable.
Enough teasing, the Xbox 360 and the Play Station 3 will change home theater into an active user experience and likely revolutionize home entertainment. Huh you say? They’re just gaming boxes, we already have those. Yes and no. Sure we have “gaming boxes” and have had for sometime, but the 360 and PS3 are much more than mere game platforms. The Xbox 360 and PS3 in particular are in essence home theater PC’s. HTPC’s with hard drives, Ethernet/Wi-Fi connectivity, and are HDTV ready all the way up to 1080p in the PS3’s case. No I’d have to say calling a 3.2GHZ, USB2.0, blue-tooth enabled device a “game system” isn’t exactly fair to either of the respective boxes.
Alright, so what’s the big deal you ask? Well that’s the beauty of HTPC; your imagination is the biggest hurdle to overcome, when the “what can I do with it” question is asked. I’ll throw out just a few of the things my Mac mini can do that a stand-alone DVD player isn’t capable of. Not only can I archive my DVD collection to one or several of the PC’s in my home, and then stream the content back through my mini connected via DVI, I can also lookup IMDB info on the titles and even check program listings for cable, all while composing an email in a separate window. Granted the mini isn’t a full fledged HTPC by most hardcore user’s standards, but it should give you an idea of the types of things a HTPC can be used for. But oh there’s so much more.
Still not convinced? Well how about this, the processing power of the Xbox 360 and PS3 should easily handle hi-def video files. Add the optional hard drive to the PS3 and you now have a method of watching HD files in your theater. Hi-def movie trailers anyone? But again, we’re just scratching the surface. For the uninitiated masses who’ve never had a PC “server” in the home, the devices could be used to run background home automation scripts. I could even see the use of USB 2.0 wireless cameras being brought into the mix making for a low cost video surveillance system. How about a game of trivia with friends? Run off a remote server so the questions never get stale. Or even massive multiplayer online role-playing games on your 50″ big screen, instead of that puny monitor. The possibilities are, if you’ll forgive the cliché, nearly limitless.
But the real innovation that these devices bring on, may not even be evident until future revisions of the platforms. The true potential of IP enabled, HD ready, game appliances will be realized when the medium is taken to the next level, via the inspiration of the current models. The future of home entertainment will always have a place for passive “movie watching” but adding the capabilities of the Xbox 360 and PS3 to the mix will open up big screen surround sound, hands-on entertainment to the masses.
Adding yet another plus to the 360’s tick box, Microsoft has announced that Windows Media Center will fully support the Xbox 360. Clearly 1080p, Blu-ray and HD-DVD will offer more immediate improvements to the home theater landscape, but opening up the living room to the internet will change the rules of home entertainment forever.
Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater