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You are here: Central > Broadband Home Labs > Our Broadband Condo > Looking Forward
Created 3/4/2006

Our Broadband Condo: Looking Forward

Outstanding Issues

(February 2006) At this time, we still have some outstanding issues to fully address the needs we identified.

We discussed some of these issues on the Networked Video/Television page:

  • To get the best audio quality in the living room (especially for multi-channel DVDs and HD broadcasts), we plan to replace the analog stereo audio cables in the media center cabinet with coaxial or optical digital audio cables. We may try an HDMI cable from the cable set-top box to the A/V receiver.
  • To view content from our Windows Media Center PC on the plasma screen, we plan to install an Xbox 360 as a Windows Media Center Extender. We won't need any new cabling for this, since we already have Ethernet at both locations.
  • To view high-definition programs on the 32" LCD screen in the master bedroom, we expect to pull component video cables through the "smurf tube" we placed in the wall for this purpose.

We also have another minor issue to resolve:

  • The Samsung DVD/VHS player in the media cabinet is not playing videotapes correctly—we hear the audio but don't see the video. DVDs play fine. We spent several hours trying to make it work, but there's probably some subtlety in the interconnects we haven't figured out yet.

Consolidating the Interconnects

Interconnect cables are unnecessarily complex and confusing.

Everyone agrees that the A/V world of the future is digital. We expended a lot of time and effort trying to connect a small number of digital devices together—and it looks like we'll need to use four different kinds of digital interconnects:

  • Optical and coaxial digital audio (between some devices in the media cabinet)
  • HDMI for video and audio (between other devices in the media cabinet)
  • Ethernet for video and audio (between the Media Center PC and the Media Center Extender)
  • A-BUS for multi-room remote controls (between the bedrooms and the media cabinet)

Why should we (or any other consumer) have to think about so many different interconnects? Why can't one interconnect do most or all of this?

Some key players in the consumer electronics industry have been thinking along the same lines, and we've started talking with them to learn about the new approaches being proposed to unify the A/V interconnects.

We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Using the PC for Television

We started thinking about these issues a year ago when we first bought the condo, and we made our initial decisions soon afterward. As we planned the remodeling, we tried in incorporate the latest thinking we've heard about the future.

As television moves to digital and high definition, one of the biggest questions is the role of the PC. Should PCs play a role in the future television environment? What roles should PCs play? How should the PC and the TV be integrated? Should they be connected together in the same room or connected through a network in different rooms?

The industry is certainly not of one mind on the answers to these questions. As we reported last month in Vista, Viiv and Video: "With Viiv and Vista, Intel and Microsoft seem to be expressing somewhat divergent views on the role of home networking." Intel wants a new advanced PC in the living room as part of the entertainment center; Microsoft wants a Media Center PC somewhere in the house, with a Windows Media Extender at each TV.

Meanwhile, many companies in the consumer electronics industry would like to see video servers in the house—but most don't think they should be PCs. Video service providers have become enthusiastic about providing DVR functionality in set-top boxes they provide—but aren't sure how they should deal with video servers purchased by the consumer.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has brought many of these players together to define how video servers (which might be PCs) can interconnect and talk with video screens. Some products based on the initial DLNA specs were shown at CES 2006, and should appear on the market soon.

Vista, Viiv and DLNA will probably all be part of the future of high-definition television. As these products appear in 2006 and 2007, we should have a better idea of how these devices will work together.