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TV and PC Will Share Home Media Center Role

19 Feb, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Preliminary results from Video Store Magazine's annual Consumer Home Entertainment Survey show an increasingly heated battle between the TV and the PC as the media center of the home. Television's current front-runner status is bolstered by continued strong growth in DVD penetration. Video Store Magazine estimates 66 percent of U.S. households now have a dedicated set-top DVD player, while 40 percent of DVD households have one or more additional players.

But don't count the PC out. Initially pegged as the likely media center when the whole convergence buzz began in the middle 1990s, the home computer's chances have since slimmed due to persistent cries that consumers won't want to watch movies on their PCs — not to mention the rise of cheap set-top DVD players that can be purchased for little more than a DVD.

And yet, with the rise in high-speed Internet connections and the growing availability of movies to download, PCs are playing an increasingly conspicuous role in the home entertainment delivery arena. Consumers might not want to watch movies on their PCs, but they sure don't mind using their computers to fetch their films.

Meanwhile, Web-enabled TVs don't appear to be catching on — yet. I've used a few of the primitive early models that have come out in recent years and found them a) too slow and b) not well suited to Web surfing. When working on our computers, we tend to be up close and personal with our screens, whereas when we watch TV, we keep a respectful distance.

And yet I don't believe the TV and the PC are destined to exist in parallel universes forever. So far, convergence has centered on talk that one will replace the other. Why must it necessarily be this way? I see both the TV and the PC sharing “media center” role. With continued advances in wireless technology, the ultimate home manifestation may one day be computers serving as a portal for movie delivery — the media controller, if you will — and then beam the movies to TV monitors around the home for viewing. Meanwhile, we'll continue to surf the Web on our PCs, with limited uses — sharing e-mail photos, for example — migrating to the TV.

Consider this: According to our survey, 82 percent of DVD households have a PC, and 72 percent of DVD households are able to connect to the Internet. Does anyone really think the proverbial twain shan't meet — or at least share a track?

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