Call it a one-two punch: Monday's news that HP is discontinuing its MediaSmart Connect line follows Friday's report that Linksys' line of Media Center Extenders is also on its way out.
While two announcements doesn't a trend make (you need three for that), I'm hopeful that one of my consumer electronics wishes is finally coming true. We may be seeing the end of the standalone network digital media player. And I say "good riddance." This is a product category that never really should've existed in the first place.
To be clear, I'm not talking about digital music players--those products like Sonos, Logitech's Squeezebox line, or the growing number of cheap (often sub-$200) Wi-Fi radios available. That's a maturing product line that's providing real value--allowing you to access your PC-based digital music, Internet radio, and the growing array of online music services (both free and premium ones).
No, I'm talking about video-enabled digital media adapters. (Which brings me to gripe No. 1: the industry couldn't even agree on a common terminology. The products were alternately known as digital media adapters, digital media players, network media streamers, set-top boxes--or some amalgamation thereof.)
There were three big reasons the product category continued to languish in the enthusiast realm and never really went mainstream.… Read more