Media Boxing

So, we have a new Xbox. Which is probably the biggest news this week (it's being hammered down my optical nerves by roughly 50% of the few banner ads that still elude my blockers), and that Cringely has already commented upon in pretty much the same lines as I would, except that I happen to think that home computing appliances will not be just for entertainment purposes.

For instance, I look at things like Ndiyo, the rising tide of special-purpose wireless gadgets and the plummeting cost of TFT screens for hints as to what might be the next "home computer", or better still, the next "tangible browser" - for some people might need nothing more than a browser, however hard that might be for others to accept.

Getting back to consoles, however, I have yet to fully assess the Xbox 360's media capabilities (Update: it can act as a Media Center extender, which is not bad but limiting), but I must admit that the way digital home entertainment is shaping up is interesting - gaming consoles are officially making the transition to full media devices, and I have to wonder if they won't subsume DVD players, PVRs and home stereos (although for that I'd rather have something slightly up-market).

Even without Cringely's nudge towards the rumors regarding an AirPort Express-like box with an H.264 decoder and a video output, there are a lot of interesting possibilities here - and a lot of opportunities for companies to drop the ball, which is what I personally expect Sony to do with the PlayStation 3 by not supporting any useful digital media formats.

As Cringely put it, "the real market is download-and-play, not streaming."

Wise words, that I would love to see turned into a commercial reality as the broadband market shifts from triple-play daydreaming to TCP/IP reality.

Maybe Apple will play a significant role in this, but I, for one, would like to see as many players as possible - provided they settle on H.264 and a common DRM scheme that doesn't treat their customers like complete idiots.