Media Centre in 2005, What’s Apple cooking for 2006: Teenage Tech Roundup

Digital-Lifestyles is pleased to have Lawrence Dudley writing for us. All too often articles about the things teenagers are interested in are written by people old enough to be their parents. What teenagers are thinking isn’t represented. Lawrence will give you a point of view that you won’t find in other publications. You see Lawrence _is_ a teenager.

Happy New Year!Happy New Year!!Since the New Year has just begun, a piece focusing on last year, the one that has just begun and the developments suspected to emerge during it seemed justified.

It’s strange in many ways, to look back on a space of time as long as a year in tech history. Technology evolves so rapidly that a time span of even as little as a week can seem like a month.

2005 was hailed by many as ‘The Year Of HD’: More and more High Definition TVs and displays have become available, and the recently launched Xbox 360 supports HD out of the box. HD promises us richer colours, and most importantly a resolution higher than the abysmal 500×300 or so resolution offered by a lot of standard definition televisions.

The price of HD equipment also dropped by a huge amount. A year ago, I remember seeing prices that one just couldn’t justify for a TV, with £3,000 not being an unusual sum of money to see for a HD television.

Walking into UK Electronics retailer, Dixons, the other day, I came across a set that cost a ‘mere’ £1,000. While a thousand pounds is still a lot of money, it’s a much more realistic price for a television than the three grand of a year ago. As far as I am concerned then, the ‘Year of HD’ was certainly a raging success.

I know a lot of people in technology make all sorts of predictions, and a lot of them turn out to be false, but there is one prediction I am fairly confident in making: 2006 will be THE year of the home entertainment computer.

Windows Media Center edition screenshotYou might wonder why I am so confident in this prediction: Afterall, Microsoft has been pushing out Windows Media Center for a good few years now, and they still haven’t gained dominance. The deciding factor for this year, I believe, will be the fact that Apple is now in the market.

On 12th October last year, Apple unveiled their first media-oriented computer, the iMac G5 which featured a remote control and accompanying software for watching DVDs, slideshows, playing music and movies. While the product’s reception was great, and the media loved it, nothing much has been heard of it since.

A nice gimmick, sure, but nothing more. It wasn’t about to replace the box under the TV, or indeed the TV itself because it missed one important feature: The ability to watch actual live television with it.

FrontrowThere were of course enhancements that could be purchased which made this possible, but they are awkward and use a different remote control. Never mind having different remote controls for different boxes, this was a case of two remote controls for the same one, and I for one know how frustrating it is to lose a remote. Having two of them increases the chance of losing one. Apart from this it wasn’t a polished affair, and the software to facilitate a media centre-like experience wasn’t mature enough.

What makes me think this will change? One word: Macworld in San Francisco next week. Apple are poised to do to video what they did to music, and I am confident they will pull it off with a rush of brushed aluminum and cool white plastic, accompanied with their usual style.

In the past, Apple haven’t briefed journalists in advance. There were of course all the usual rumour sites, and their fan base has always been prominent on the Web.

Macworld Expo LogoHowever, this has always been on quite specific Mac-related Websites, and not in main stream media.

Over the past few days however, the rumours have increased to such a level that popular news site had almost one out of every two stories it carried relating to Apple in one way or another. I got a familiar buzz from this – something must be going on. Imagine my surprise then when I opened the newspaper this morning, only to find a nice big picture of Steve Jobs on the front cover of one of the inserts.

One thing’s for sure, San Francisco 2006 is going to be BIG. Along with a slew of expected Intel Apple Macs (yes, Apple are moving to the Intel architecture), a product is expected that, if released, could transform the way we consume media.

Think of it as an iPod for your living room. It downloads music, videos and films, can display and record television, radio and any other input source and can pipe audio to any room in the house, wirelessly, thanks to the existing Airtunes technology. Whether this is a dream that will soon become reality or not, will be revealed in the next few days.

It may of course be that Apple ship this wonder product later than this, but I have a feeling, only a feeling mind, that it will be at Macworld San Francisco.

So what about competitors? What are Microsoft doing about all this? It seems that Windows Vista will ship with a media center module built-in, meaning that it isn’t necessary to buy a separate Windows Media Center machine to run it on. However, not many details exist about this, and the release date isn’t certain yet, although it is scheduled for sometime in 2006.

There’s not much else to say until it becomes apparent what is released during the year, but I shall be doing a special piece covering the developments from Mac World San Francisco on or around the 12th of January. Here’s to a good year in media and technology!