Media Centre Madness

What will the ultimate, futuristic home entertainment setup be like?

According to Microsoft, soon we will all be taking pictures on our phones and beaming these wirelessly to our Media Centre PCs, where they can be displayed as a slideshow or printed out if we so choose. Using our phones, we then program our Media Centre to record a TV program, which can be stored on its hard disk or burned onto DVD. While we check our mail or surf the web on our widescreen TV, we can then instruct our Media Centre to wirelessly stream our music collection to speakers placed around the room - or even into other rooms.

Convergence is the name of the game today, and this applies to home entertainment technology as much as anything else. Gradually, we are seeing a move towards the 'Media Centre' concept, with a single PC replacing multiple hardware components such as DVD players, set top boxes and HD recorders.

Microsoft has been pushing the concept for a few years now with limited success. This is perhaps, due largely to the fact that a Media Centre PC looked just like that - a PC - and who wants to place an ugly grey tower in their living room?

Media centre manufacturers are addressing this concern with recent releases though, and are also capitalising on advances in storage and connectivity technology that would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Take the Claritas CTS1000, shipping with 1 Terabyte hard drive (yes, that's 1000GB), 1GB of memory and inbuilt WiFi, TV tuner and EPG - all in the form factor of an amp. Australian company Optima have also moved into this space, but Fujitsu has upped the ante by including a 32" LCD wisecreen TV with their Deskpower TX package.

The future may be closer than you think.

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