Secondly, convergence—finally—is in full-throttle mode. In an ironic twist that would make some audiophiles' heads explode, high-end DVD players are being outfitted to play WMA, MP3 and other downloadable music formats that provide inferior sound to standard CDs. Why? Consumers are demanding the ability to play CDs of downloaded music through their home theater speakers. A growing number of televisions now feature media card slots, which can allow consumers to transfer digital photos and music from the PC to the TV for viewing. The TiVo and Replay DVRs are now both networkable.
Let's talk about those DVRs for a minute, because in many ways they provide a template for what media center PCs are all about. What's the huge difference, really, between a DVR (a CE product) and a media center PC? Both can reside in the entertainment center, both have tuners to record and play TV, both can network with other PCs in the house and pull content from them. DVRs are essentially souped-up, highly specialized PCs. They have a hard drive, they run software applications (TiVo, based on the Linux kernal, is one of the most user-friendly applications ever developed), and they've got I/O, including network connections. The attached TV serves as the monitor.
Media center PCs—which have the same features and can do the same things—now have the potential to become the killer DVR, just as the category is starting to catch on. Psychologically, a user with a brand-new media center PC will likely be more interested in hooking it up to the A/V center than a TiVo user would be in connecting the TiVo and the A/V center to a clunky old PC.