Merging home theater and computers; where is the benefit?

That time is rapidly drawing near. Now that almost every new home computer has a DVD player, (with many quickly adopting DVD writers) the line between computer and entertainment centers are blurred. By means of FireWire and USB ports it is now possible to connect your computer directly to televisions and other home theater components. Is this combination of technologies really something that is necessary or is it just a ploy to sell more expensive equipment? Sure there are positives to this brave new world but do they justify doing it.

One of the main forces that drive this combination of technologies is the fact that more and more home theater equipment components are actually computer sub-systems. Your DVD player is under the hood a computer capable of running software code, the television set has given way to a very large computer monitor and home theater hard drives of the like which TiVo use, are replacing the trusty old VCR. The problem that concerns me is ?are we over complicating something that should be entertainment?? Many of us work with computers in our jobs. It is difficult to find a career that is devoid of computers. Everyone from the auto mechanic to the bookkeeper now has to stare at a computer during their work day. Is it really necessary to go home and have to boot another computer just to watch the evening news or your favorite sit-com?

Sure, the next young Spielberg wants to be able to create and edit their movies on the computer and display them on that plasma TV with full surround sound but the new home is beginning to look at lot like the server closets at work. I wonder how long it will be before elementary schools will offer CNE?s so our children can act as system administrators to keep our all inclusive home networks running. I don?t want to hear my daughter tell me ?Dad, you can?t watch CSI tonight, I had to bring the living room down to apply the new service pack 2.? Sure, I?m exaggerating to make a point but that point is I remember a time when the family would gather around the TV to relax and get away from the work a day world. Microsoft has recently come out with a new operating system to hasten the merger. Windows XP Media edition creates a graphic user interface that permits you to control your TV, DVD player and receiver from your computer.

Windows XP media offers the user the ability to store programs from your cable or satellite directly on your hard drive. With massive gigabyte hard drives now common place this will have a positive pressure on companies like TiVo to become more competitive and offer the consumers more features at a lower price. Windows XP Media Edition also connects through the internet to a service that will provide up to date information on when your favorite show is scheduled. You can also create a database for your video and audio collections. Yes there are reasons for the merger I just have to wonder about how much of our day we are turning over to those little boxes under our desks.

It seems that many of these functions are now part of the modern home theater system. Is there really a concrete reason to add yet another level to the setup process? I get a lot of e-mail from people needing to know how to set up their home theaters. If we now have to add to the plethora of cables and wires endless discs with operating systems, software upgrades and patches we may just spend more time maintaining our entertainment centers then we do actually enjoying them. There is a reason why so called Home Theaters in a Box are becoming increasingly popular. There are many people out there that desire a simple means of getting the modern video and audio technologies into their homes. There is something to be said about a simple solution. Nice little color coded wires that you don?t need an advanced degree to understand. A few cables get plugged into a couple of jacks and you pop in a disc, sit back and enjoy. 

My job is considered high tech; one of my hobbies is almost a perfect reflection of what I do at that job so perhaps I am speaking from a point of view of a person constantly in front of a computer. I also have enjoyed films and music for a lot longer that home computers even existed. That being said I was one of the first around that embraced home computing. I use the computer for entertainment but I still like to know that I can turn off my computer and still watch a movie. I?ve seen some of the new homes being built and they actually include a server closet and have RJ-45 wires run through the floorboards. There is a need for these things; I don?t deny that at all. I just find myself in the camp of people that want a little simplicity in life, a means to escape from work rather than bringing a form of it into every aspect of my home.

So, whether you want to watch a DVD on your computer or on your television, download your films create our own or play a disc there is something out there for you. The important thing is there should be options. The technical world is big enough for all of us to coexist. Combine your computer with your home theater or keep them apart, its all good. Just make sure the option continues to exist. With an industry and consumer drive rush to have everything controlled from a single box in your home let?s not forget those of us that like to keep things separate.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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