these two separate but related stories of change and revolution,
an obvious question arises: will personal computing and home entertainment
In this paper,
we look at the problems faced by traditional digital home entertainment
and we look at the opportunity for the PC to solve many of these
problems. At the same time, we look at the PC and the problems that
it faces in meeting the challenges of home entertainment.
The first and most visible challenge to home entertainment today
is the complexity of setup. The entanglement of audio, video, coaxial,
and power cables that lie behind every home's entertainment system
are the first sign of this. The array of different boxes and remote
controls required for the average home entertainment system are
another. The complexity of a home entertainment system grows exponentially,
as the number of devices in that system grows. Will the consumer
ever be able to use a new entertainment device by simply plugging
it into the power outlet?
Another challenge faced by current digital home
entertainment devices is that of distribution -- in a world where
devices are increasingly networked and devices talk to each other
to exchange information, current consumer electronics devices fall
short of interconnecting different devices together. Consumer electronics
devices today are isolated islands of functionality, separate and
standalone. With such isolation, can one remote control ever be
programmed to control every device inside the house? Consumers are
increasingly demanding "anytime, anywhere" access to entertainment,
a trend evidenced in music by the popularity of compact digital
audio players such at the Apple iPod. Consumer electronics devices
must meet this consumer demand. Will consumers be able to watch
TV on any screen inside the house, whether it's the screen of the
television in the living room, the screen of the television in the
bedroom, the screen of a wireless web tablet or the screen of a
Yet another challenge faced by consumer electronics
devices is that of cost -- the use of proprietary hardware for traditional
consumer electronics devices results in higher costs to the consumer,
especially when it comes to competing with lost-cow commodity PC
hardware. With the introduction of new capabilities and new technologies,
costs for consumer electronics devices can get particularly high.
Take DVD-burning as an example -- consumers will want the ability
to transfer recorded TV shows and movies to DVD for archival and
future viewing. Adding this feature to a proprietary hardware-based
personal video recorder such as TiVo would require the consumer
to purchase of a new piece of hardware -- an expensive hardware
Home Ideas offers a wide variety of Home Theater and Whole
Home entertainment systems. Now it is possible to listen to your
favorite CD or watch your DVD player from any room in the house,
including the patio.
Consumers have more entertainment choices and sources than ever
before - cable, satellite, DVDs, PVRs, game consoles, home servers,
PCs, cameras, etc..., but few, if any, of these devices are connected
to more than a single TV set. In a networked home, consumers can
access and share these interconnected devices and their content
from all the TVs in the home.
What has not changed significantly is how homeowners
consume their entertainment. While there are many new ways (sources)
in which entertainment is brought to the home, the television is
the center of entertainment for most families, both today and for
the foreseeable future. Consider these facts:
are 400 million TVs in the US today.
• Greater than 50% of US homes have three or more TVs.
• The average home has three rooms wired with coax.
• Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) achieved one million installations
in the first nine months and has exploded to reach
an installed base of over 15 million in the US today.
• DVD player adoption is the fastest in consumer electronic
• Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) have fundamentally changed
consumer's viewing behavior by providing the consumer
with control. PVRs have flipped traditional TV programming models
Service providers are competing fiercely for the homeowners' discretionary
> Cable TV providers are expanding their service
offerings to include analog and digital video programming, pay-per-view
movies, interactive TV, music-on-demand, and broadband Internet
> DBS service providers are expanding their offerings to include
PVR capabilities, bi-directional broadband Internet, free set-top
boxes (with service bundles), and free device installation.
> Other media companies are bringing entertainment directly to
the home using PCs, Internet ready devices, and streaming audio/video
via home servers or residential gateways.
> Many service providers are including PVR capabilities in their
set-top boxes (STBs) to digitally store entertainment for later
The business models of yesterday are collapsing under the weight
(expense) of these new technologies. Consider the current situation:
have been conditioned for many years to expect their entertainment
equipment to be partly or completely subsidized
by the service provider.
• New services and capabilities are digital. TVs are predominantly
analog. Hence, these TVs eventually will need
a STB to view the new services.
• New STBs are essentially multimedia computers; they include
expensive MPEG codecs, PVR disk drives, and microprocessors
Service providers are beginning to see the value of multi-room offerings;
however, the economics of multiple STBs are painful for both the
service provider and the customer. While service providers are forced
to raise their service fees for multiple STBs, these fees do not
cover the added expense of secondary STBs. These higher fees provide
homeowners a reason to shop around and potentially switch service
providers. Home entertainment networking technologies enable the
rollout of these services in a way that is both valuable to the
consumer and offer the service provider lower deployment cost and
potential reduction in churn of the subscriber base.