Saturday CeBIT: Manufacturers Recognise Importance of Consumers’ Digital Lifestyles

Many big exhibitors are pushing devices, components and software designed to enhance consumer’s digital lifestyles, in answer to the rapidly growing demand for smart devices capable of sharing content. Traditionally a business conference, this year has seen a pronounced shift at CeBIT towards the needs of the consumer.

Many consumer mobile phones contain applications and features purely seen as business tools a few years ago, such as scheduling software, email and connectivity with PCs and other devices.

Many exhibitors, such as Sony and Microsoft are displaying devices intended to introduce home users to a world where they can download and share content easily anywhere in the house. Microsoft is promoting this vision through its Windows XP Media Centre PC and has now developed the Windows Media Centre Extender which will allow users to access their Media Centre PC from anywhere in the house. We reported on Microsoft’s “iPod killer”, the Portable Media Centre yesterday, and this new device will be fully compatible with home Media Centre PCs.

Sony’s answer to all this, the hotly-awaited PSX, is on display at CeBIT. The games playing aspect of the PSX is almost secondary to its other functions: PVR, music, electronic programme guide, photograph and home video album … and all compatible with other Sony devices such as cameras, PDAs and even the PSP when it appears. The feature list for the European PSX has yet to be finalised, so we’re afraid that the model on display at CeBIT today is the Japanese box. A shame really, because those people who would be most interested in the PSX will already either seen the Japanese edition, or even had one imported by now.

CeBIT 2004 has shown how important digital lifestyles are to both manufacturers and consumers – there is a huge range of devices available with more coming soon. Sadly, for true interoperability, manufacturers would like to lock their customers into one brand – which is likely to lead to frustration. The Sony music online shop will only work with Sony software on Sony devices, Microsoft won’t let you play Windows Media files on a Linux PVR.

We hope that consumers will campaign for open standards and better interoperability before companies lock down the entire chain, from software to hardware to media.

CeBIT News Site

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?