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Lessons in networked entertainment, Part 3

Feb 18, 20042 mins
Enterprise Applications

* CES 2004: Media announcements hold clues to the future

Here’s what to expect in media networking this year based on announcements made at the show.

Microsoft will enter the market sooner than expected. In a December column I said you could expect Microsoft to announce its whole-home media distribution strategy this year and ship it in 2005 (see editorial link below). But now, the company plans to release its Media Extender and Media Connect content server products for the 2004 holiday season. Media Extender is a combination reference platform for networked client devices and Windows CE; Media Connect is UPNP-based server software that sends video, audio and photos to these devices using Windows Media 9. This means PC vendors will be offering Media Center PCs and networked CE bridges that connect to the PC over a home network, making the PC the central hub for digital content. 

Some early specs of Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox game console indicate that the box will lack a hard disk drive. This signals the company could be giving up its earlier vision of making the Xbox the “Trojan horse” for home digital content storage and will focus on making the PC the home server instead.  

Second, home network storage is getting legs. Netgear announced its Media Router with a USB connection for storage, and D-Link pushed its Central Home Drive products. Whether consumers will pay for network-attached storage remains to be seen, but you can bet vendors will be pushing the message hard through next year.

Third, networked video will see its first big rollout – the form of a multi-room personal video recorder (PVR). VOOM, the digital satellite arm of Cablevision, will offer a whole-home PVR using media networking middleware from Ucentric, a home networking software start-up. EchoStar Communications, the satellite broadcaster that brings you Dish Network (and has rolled out more PVRs than  Tivo) is also readying its multi-room PVR service. 

Tivo plans to expand its product to multiple rooms as well. Last year the company debuted Home Media, which lets two Tivos connect and share content. This January,  Tivo acquired home networking software vendor Strangeberry and announced it would allow Tivos to network to PCs so users could take content on the road.