Over the past decade, Intel, Microsoft and the gamut of PC technology leaders have been saying that convergence is coming.  Years of Intel Developer Forum keynotes were full of talking about the future and convergence and how it was just around the corner.  Yet every year we found ourselves wondering when it was really going to happen.  It seems like one night the industry went to bed and when we all woke up the next morning, convergence had happened. 

Our first CES article had that phrase in its title: "Convergence Happened", because indeed it had.  Last year's CES seemed very much like two discrete industries (PC and CE) meeting awkwardly at a single trade show; this year's CES however felt like the two had been married for years, and now it was only a question of which devices would do convergence well.  When we say convergence, we're speaking of the intersection of the PC and Consumer Electronics industries where both types of devices can work together, often enabled by so-called convergence devices. 

The debate over this convergence of PC and CE technologies mainly revolved around what technology would be the center of the digital home.  PC companies like Intel and Microsoft felt it would be the PC, while CE companies like Sony wanted it to be a CE device.  While the race is far from over, it looks like Microsoft and Intel have an early lead, as the PC is most definitely the center of the digital home today. 

The center of the digital home doesn't necessarily have to be the most frequently used device in the home, rather it is the device that enables all of the other devices in the digital home.  In Microsoft's digital home, that device is currently a reasonably powerful Windows XP PC; in the future, it will be a Windows Home Server PC.  Your content is stored on that computer, your emails, music, videos, everything.  Other devices revolve around it by either syncing to it or streaming data from it.  For example, your iPod or Zune syncs music to it, and your Xbox 360 streams videos from it.

It's amazing how much Microsoft has been able to do with the Xbox 360 in just over a year of it being on the market.  While Microsoft had lofty goals for the original Xbox, the only people who were able to use it as more than a DVD player/game console were those who modded the console to support homebrew applications like Xbox Media Center.  The 360 however is a different story entirely; it's already more than a game console.  It's not that Microsoft did anything earth shattering with its Xbox 360 and Live strategy, it's that it was the first time a convergence device was even remotely well executed.  Microsoft has spent the past decade trying to get a PC into the living room, and at the end of the day all it took was an Xbox.

You see, everyone has been in search of what Microsoft has been able to put together with Windows and the Xbox 360.  Sony's attempt centers around the PS3, coupled with intelligent TVs, Blu-ray players and other CE devices.  And Apple's attempt, well Apple's attempt is a little different.

Today's article focuses on some of the convergence related news that happened around this year's CES. From Microsoft's Xbox 360 IPTV announcement and the iPhone to AMD's new form factor, it's all part of a much bigger picture that will impact all of our lives.

TV is Changing
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  • Rock Hydra - Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Apple ... buy Nintendo


    I hope not.
    Reply
  • archcommus - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    The article speaks largely about waiting for a company to do convergence perfectly, to combine the PC and TV seamlessly and easily. Am I missing something here or can I do this all on my own very easily? I don't own my own home, but if I did, I would have a server PC with all of my content, PCs in each room, a PC powering each TV (or monitor, same difference really), with gigabit ethernet connecting it all. Each PC powering a TV would of course have a tuner card installed and PVR software like SageTV. Bingo - every TV in my house can now watch live TV, function as a PVR/TiVo-like device, and also view content stored on any PC in my home since they're all on one LAN. I can also play my music, view my photos, and even browse the internet if I wanted at any TV in the house.

    There. Did I just solve the problem? :P I'm kidding of course, I just don't get what I'm missing here.
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Thursday, January 18, 2007 - link

    IPTV-But you've got to pay..same old same old.

    Right now my cable is connected to my computer and I get over the air HDTV.
    My computer does DVR..all this with a cheap tuner card.

    Seems pretty lame to use an XBOX when you have a PC that can adjust the
    picture etc and play videos from Yahoo already.
    My TV is my second monitor already.

    Itunes downloaded stuff is ok for tv shows..movies are pricy.
    Reply
  • Araemo - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    "The real question is whether or not AMD will be able to put enough resources behind DTX to make it a widely accepted industry standard."

    You know, they really might not have to. Why? Same reason ATX actually caught on: Cases can be built VERY EASILY to support both DTX and ATX, or Mini-ITX and DTX.. allowing case manufacturers to hop on board for almost no cost.

    Motherboard manufacturers don't even have to wait for the cases to be available, since the DTX boards will fit on ATX cases... So I'd expect, if AMD doesn't piss anyone off, and makes nice with ASUS and the other tier-1 mobo manufacturers... smaller DTX boards might replace mini-ATX if they have any significant improvements. (What I'm trying to say is: What is the risk if ASUS makes their tiny board with only one PCI slot DTX or mini-ATX? There should be none, if the board was already designed to be that cheap and restricted for low costs... The board will still work in ATX cases so they can advertise it as dual compatibility.)
    Reply
  • RogueSpear - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    I DVR just about everything that I watch. With the amount of money I throw at Time Warner I feel justified in blowing past all of the commercials, plus I like to watch things when it's convenient to me. So can I keep on playing a game at full speed (or for that matter at all) while this thing is recording one or two HD streams? Or do I need to put the controller down because it's time to record The Office? Reply
  • glennpratt - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    Divx != Pirated; and vise versa Anand. I get the point, but that mentality doesn't help.

    If only it were easy to encode every movie and TV show I own or have recorded to a decent format and have everybody play it. But no! Movie companies want to throw a wrench in the works and software developers want to divide up the broken works into sovereign territories.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    In fact these days most pirated content is encoded with XviD rather than DivX. Admittedly there isn't really much difference between them as they are both implementations of MPEG4 ASP, and on a computer you can play back DivX encoded files using the XviD decoder and vice-versa. Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    Well, for the most part, I do NOT play the movies I bought! I just encode the to some high-quality XviD, put on home NAS and then play whenever I want (without all of the commercials and other things I paid for while not eanting them).

    AFAIK most friend do it this way so I really see no reason for going DRM...

    However that DTX thingie seems sweet. Especially combined with Fusion...
    Reply
  • Goty - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    If you look at the placement of the northbridge relative to the memory slots (find pictures elsewhere on the web for a full shot of the board), the CPU socket sits right between the two. What does this mean? This means that there's pretty much no way that this form factor will work with any CPU that doesn't utilize and onboard memory controller, i.e. this pretty much leaves Intel out of it. Reply
  • Araemo - Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - link

    Besides the fact that you can probably relocate both mobo and northbridge if your northbridge is your memory controller - Intel is moving to an on-die memory controller too, so that is fairly forward-thinking. Reply

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