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The network is the disputer

I just moderated my panel at Digital Hollywood on entertainment in the digital home and was struck by how different the tenor of the mood was than on the panel with the same title that I moderated a few months ago at Building Blocks in San Jose. Whereas that event was starry-eyed over the promise of 802.11n — an optimism that carried through to DigitalLife — at least one panelist today asserted that consumers will not create home networks to move media around the home. There was also discussion of the pain vs. the gain of home networking and the level of technical knowledge stil required.

This led me to pose to the panel what the need is for the networked home, the future of which we often take for granted. If service providers can get you all the video and music you need, the missing link is only your own content. And many consumers would be satisfied with a simple wireless link from their digital cameras for that. This all runs counter to the conventional wisdom that photos — without any DRM — are the “easy” stuff, and music and Hollywood video content is the “hard” stuff.

After my panel, I caught up with a charming friend and former colleague who wondered aloud whether we have finally reached “convergence” as defined as a marriage of the PC and television (not the definition I’m using these days, incidentally). For the most part, I think we have. Certainly from a hardware perspective, devices such as TiVo, HD-DVD players and advanced set-top boxes are essentially PCs inside. We’re also seeing TV shows streamed or sold to the PC. Television programming itself has not become interactive (yet), but modern-day EPG and input-switching interfaces — to say nothing of network interfaces such as those in HP’s MediaSmart televisions — exemplify computing.