Thanks for the IM with the article in Slate this week on “The Myth of the Living-Room PC.”
“McCracken says most homes are consolidating around a two-hub model. A PC (or Mac) with some multimedia features anchors the home office, while a TV with some computerized gear—think TiVo, not desktop computer—owns the living room. Tech marketers talk about the “2-foot interface” of the PC versus the “10-foot interface” of the TV. When you use a computer, you want to lean forward and engage with the thing, typing and clicking and multitasking. When you watch Lost, you want to sit back and put your feet up on the couch. My tech-savvy friends who can afford anything they want set up a huge HDTV with TiVo, cable, and DVD players—then sit in front of it with a laptop on their knees. They use Google and AIM while watching TV, but they keep their 2-foot and 10-foot gadgets separate.”
Myth? It depends on your definition. Certainly not a myth like the Yeti or Ogopogo (look that one up).
As I noted earlier this year, we have a Media Center PC (running Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005) at the centre of our system, with a Media Center Extender (aka MCE) in the bedroom and an Xbox with a MCE built in to the system. For ease of use, the vast majority of our entertainment viewing comes through our ReplayTV DVRs that allows us to time shift our programming from the networks. But I find that with our Media Center, we’re taking more and more media with us, and streaming more media for the kids (and for us, esp movies and specials).
The lines are blurring as people are more on the go, and where you want to enjoy the entertainment (not counting the recent trouble at the airports, as well as Snakes on Planes), whether it’s in the home (where the bulk is enjoyed), or on the road, in the skies or while you’re waiting to get on the plane.
The scene in the home living room is changing, slowly but surely. Will Poole announced at WinHEC that Microsoft has “sold over 10 million copies with our partners of Media Center PCs, and we’re selling at a rate of over 1 million per month.” That’s a big installed base, but still a small percentage of all PCs sold worldwide, and a percentage of the DVRs: InformationWeek reported that JupiterResearch estimates “nearly half of U.S. households are expected to own DVRs in 2010, as cable and satellite companies heavily market them to consumers, according to JupiterResearch. The installed base is expected to increase to 55 million households from 7 million last year.”
At least outside the Oz that is Redmond and some surrounding communities, the bulk of viewing comes via a dedicated device, like a Tivo, ReplayTV or other DVR (like those from Panasonic). But watch out as more and more free or close-to-free set top boxes from cable companies, satellite operators and telephone companies offer powerful and relatively inexpensive boxes that include DVR. Analysts expect those devices to dominate the market in a few years, whereas today, standalone DVRs, like TiVo’s, dominate. Some are even using the Comcast DVR featuring MicrosoftTV Foundation Edition. (Disclaimer: ‘though I worked with Comcast and other providers in America while I was working at MSTV in the E&D division, we have not yet made the move to digtal in our home.)
That’s a huge leap from the start of the DVR market just a few years ago in 1999-2000.
So the myth of the living room PC is not so much of a myth, rather more of an uncommon beast. But the numbers are going up, and the market for multifunction entertainment PCs looks pretty healthy.