Home Entertainment Hubs Thrive on 802.11a

By Ed Sutherland

February 12, 2002

Digital home entertainment hubs and recorders will likely rely on 802.11a to provide the backbone of the home network. Either that, or get ready to lay a lot of cable.

Home video recorders aren't just for taping television shows or playing the latest Hollywood blockbuster anymore. As more home computer networks transform into entertainment gateways capable of managing everything but your taxes, consumers are eagerly exploring personal video recorders (PVR.)

The most widely-discussed PVR does more than digitally record broadcasts for later viewing. The Moxi Media Server (MMS) from Moxi Digital was unveiled at the 2002 CES by Steve Perlman, creator of WebTV. The Media Server plays CDs and DVDs, acts as a firewalled cable or DSL router, stores digital music, can browse the Web and access Instant Messaging services.

That's in addition to serving as a traditional PVR.

802.11 Central to Entertainment Hub Success
The MMS comes equipped with an 80GB hard disk drive to store incoming content, Firewire and USB ports to connect other devices, and remote terminals that share audio and video throughout the home via either Ethernet or 802.11a.

An interface built on Flash 5 is organized into music, video, advanced Web and Interactive TV areas -- all searchable. A customized version of Linux is used for the Moxi's OS.

The Moxi Media Server will be available through cable and satellite providers later in 2002 as a replacement for current set-top boxes. Satellite subscribers to the Dish Network will be the first to use the system. Moxi has ties with AOL Time Warner and Charter on the cable side.

An Updated TiVo
The well-known TiVo PVR will soon release the Series 2. The new box includes more recording time (up to 60 hours) for less cost (between $300-$400.)

Following the digital hub trend, the TiVo Series 2 includes 2 USB ports for digital cameras, MP3 players and other devices. The TiVo can store broadband video, digital music, photos, and other content. Broadband Video-on-Demand is also supported.

SonicBlue has tangled with the motion picture industry and television studios over the ReplayTV 4000's commercial skip feature and Internet access. Despite the court challenges, the new PVR is shipping.

The ReplayTV 4000 includes an enormous 320-hour storage capacity using MPEG-2 video encoding. Along with serial and Ethernet ports, the system requires a broadband connection and home network. In addition to sharing content throughout the home, movies can be shared with up to 15 people through the Internet. The new ReplayTV even transfers digital pictures from your PC to your PVR.

Microsoft Turns Entertainer
While Microsoft's UltimateTV unit recently disbanded, don't count Bill Gates out of the burgeoning home entertainment market. At the center of Microsoft's eHome initiative and the reorientation of the PC as an entertainment device is the Homestation.

The Homestation is based upon the Xbox game box. But along with games, Homestation would play DVDs and digital music, access the Internet and become a digital video recorder. Homestation would become the hub of two other Microsoft concepts:

* Mira - a tablet-sized computer allowing users to stay in touch with PCs as users walk about the home.

* Freestyle - Expands Windows XP allowing PCs to record video, play digital music and more. "Microsoft is crazy if it thinks people are going to want to watch TV or listen to music using Windows XP, counters Moxi founder Perlman.

With personal video recorders and digital entertainment hubs expected to be in 25 million U.S. homes by 2006, today's PC-centric home network is about to change. Analysts say that at the heart of that transformation will be 802.11.



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