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Entertainment Hardware New Center of Convergence

3 Jul, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

For years, folks in the tech sector have been saying entertainment convergence would happen on personal computers as they penetrate ever more homes and gain richer graphics and faster processors.

But with most consumers still preferring to watch movies on their TV sets, tech companies are branching out of the slumping office computer market and taking advantage of the boom in entertainment products. They seem to be realizing convergence will happen in the living room.

Gateway has announced it will offer a networked DVD set-top, complete with progressive scan and wireless or Ethernet (wired) connectivity, for $250.

The Connected DVD Player simplifies the task of networking entertainment throughout a home by using the DVD player as the interface. Consumers set up the player like any other, then install the included Windows-compatible software onto their PCs. From there, they can perform setup and selection tasks using the TV screen and remote control to navigate DVD movies, MP3 music files and digital photos and watch them on the TV set.

The system connects through a home network to retrieve data from a networked PC (with Windows 98 or above) and supports MPEG and WMA audio streaming.

Samsung just introduced a high-definition DVD player at $299. The company promises higher-resolution images because the player, instead of converting the digital signal to analog to accommodate standard TV sets, has a digital video interface so the output to the set is digital. The player is also designed to present images above the standard 480-line TV resolution to improve the picture on 720- or 1,080-line displays.

Toshiba is accommodating consumers who want to take their entertainment on the road -- or into the air, or aboard ship -- with its new notebook computer with a whopping 17-inch display panel. The display is larger than many consumers' PC monitors, which come standard in 15-inch size.

The portable features a widescreen display; CD, DVD and DVD-RW capability; and stereo sound. It comes standard with wireless Internet access. Toshiba is touting its home portability, promoting the Satellite P25-S507 as “a device that can easily be shown on a coffee table, in a living room or home office.” The downside is the $2,099 price tag, a barrier to entry for cost-conscious consumers.

Also pricey but more accessible, Pioneer recently announced it will have DVD-DVR (digital video recorder) combination set-tops, which will incorporate TiVo, on the market by the holidays. The new recorders, scheduled to debut in stores this fall, will integrate TiVo service with advanced DVD recording for the option of short-term storage on a hard drive or long-term archival of broadcast programming on DVD-R/RW discs.

The Pioneer Elite DVR-57H includes a 120-gigabyte hard drive, while the Pioneer DVR-810H boasts 80 gigabytes of storage space. The models are $1,199 and $1,800, respectively.

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