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Nick Davis doesn't have a TV set--at least not in the usual way. Instead, he watches football games through his PC, projected in living color against a tall white wall in his New York loft.
His DVD player, TiVo and a PlayStation are all hooked up to the system through a wireless network. The PC has a television card that plugs into the cable. Perhaps the most remarkable quality about the ingenious set-up is that anyone can do it, as long they don't mind reading a few minimal instruction manuals. "It's simple," Davis said. "It just sounds complicated."
Davis, 25, is on the forefront of a generation of TV viewers who are tearing down the technology walls that once isolated their television sets, turning them into just one component of a powerful Internet-connected, networked multimedia system. But is this really something for the average viewer or even the mildly ambitious computer hobbyist? It all depends on what the masses want and whether they are willing to wait a few years for the technology to settle into standards.
According to analysis firm In-Stat, the number of people who have home media networks will grow from 50 million in 2005 to more than 200 million in 2009, driven largely by PC companies that continue to shift their focus from the desktop and laptop to the living room.
It's increasingly easy to buy a Media Center PC and simply plug it into a television. That's the start of a quick TV home network, making it simple to record shows, burn them to DVD, and even watch them from other computers or on a cell phone.
For a top-flight system, viewers can go Davis' route and do it themselves--or talk to a professional installer
like Adam Zolot of Entertaining Spaces, near San Francisco. Zolot and others say the future can be seen in the work of a company called Kaleidescape, which creates $30,000 systems that hold hundreds of digital movies on a home server accessible anywhere in a networked home.
Because Kaleidescape is embroiled in litigation with Hollywood, Zolot is installing a much cheaper system. Axonix's MediaMax, his temporary solution, stores movies on a 400 DVD changer connected to television sets throughout a house. Add a server for music and nonmovie video content, and he says he has a powerful system.
As the world moves toward having all media digitized, with hard drives and Net connections at the core of home media centers, Zolot sees a much more easily networked future. "As soon as the legal issues are resolved, much like the digital-music era, this is going to blow wide open."