Check out one of Robert Scoble's recent posts regarding connecting a MacMini to an HDTV. He runs through a list of cool things he now has because he connected the MacMini to a computer to his HDTV. There isn't a item in his list that we have not been able to do, and do very well, with a Windows Media Center PC for the last 5 years. He even makes mention that he has a Media Center but he apparently didn't understand what it was capable of or never actually used it else he would have known these things. he could have saved himself $700 if he just would have.....well......RTFM.
He then details why the PC connected to a TV "revolution" hasn't materialized yet. Each of his reasons (with the exception of the Dave Winer software....which I have not investigated) is actually invalid.
1. "Dave Winer's Software" - haven't seen it so I can't comment (***update*** - it appears Dave's software is Mac only)
2. $700 for a consumer device is too much - I agree with that. But there are $500 Media Center PC's on the market. They don't have the CableCard HDTV capabilities which does bump the price up but I would argue that HD has yet to saturate the consumer market enough to make it a high enough priority for most consumers. HDTV Sales maybe soaring but consumer understanding of how to make use of them is lagging behind. That will change dramatically over the next few years though and I believe we will see much higher adoption.
3. "It still seems a bit weird to connect a PC to a TV" - I was doing this with my Apple //gs 20 years ago. It was weird then. It hasn't been weird for at least 3-5 years now and certainly is not weird today. Every major retailer has a Media Center PC's for sale and most have one connected to big TV's in their electronics departments or displaying recorded content on a demo machine in the PC department. Just because you have to go to an Apple store to see a Mac do it doesn't mean that PC's haven't been able to do this for 5 years now.
4. "Too many people assume a TV is just for watching TV and haven’t considered doing anything else on it. Sounds like the cell phone market before the iPhone, huh?" - I don't really want to comment on the whole iPhone thing but I have to. Scoble seems to suggest that prior to the release of the iPhone, the everyday cell phone user didn't use their cell phone for anything except making and receiving phone calls. The every day American cell phone user has been sending text messages, posting to blogs, listening to music and browsing the web with their phones for years. Maybe not with the same flash and overpriced device that the iPhone provides us, but we have been doing it. Go outside the US and cell phones are used for purchase transactions, watching TV, listening to the radio, gaming, authentication and identification. When considering TV's, Windows Media Center, MythTV and other similar products have allowed consumers to use their TV's as a picture editor and viewer, movie player, Internet browser, stereo, personal video recorder, digital picture frame and more for years. I will be the first to admit that the everyday consumer has been a little slow to get on the bandwagon but the products are out there and people are using them.
I have been using Windows Media Center since it was in beta for the 2004 edition. When I lived in the San Diego area I started with MCE 2004 and a couple of WinTV-250 analog tuner cards. I very quickly added an over-the-air HD tuner to add HD recording capabilities for the local channels. For a brief period in SoCal that machine would (usually on Thursday evenings) be recording 2 analog channels and an HD channel at the same time. That would all be taking place in the background while I was browsing the web, listening to music, viewing and editing pictures I had stored on the Media Center from my digital camera. I am not much of a gamer these days but i did play some Quake and other games back then all while the Media Center did it's thing in the background.
Now that I live in Redmond, WA I am on the wrong side of a hill to be able to get OTA HD broadcasts so I have relied on my cable-company's HD-PVR to record HD content. But I am very close to investing in a system similar to what Keith Comb's posted about recently. I wouldn't even be making this investment if it weren't for the fact that I am on the wrong side of the hill and my existing Media Center is the same one I started out with in SoCal. That 5 year old hardware is a little dated now and can easily be re-purposed in my house for some other use so I am looking to build a new Media Center system. I am looking to put together a dual CableCard tuner system and ditch my cable company's DVR box so I can reduce the amount of hardware in the living room.