What I want for Christmas

I love gadgets / technology and have been trying to find the ideal way to distribute audio / video around the house/garden, within the following constraints:

– wireless
– reasonably cheap (as needs to be deployed in each room)
– supports iTunes content
– distributes TV, music, photos, DVD’s, Internet radio
– looks “cool” and “un-obtrusive” (i.e. not a PC in every room)
– can output to a TV, speakers or Hifi
– simple enough for wife and kids to use
– a simple remote control

There are a number of devices that have come to the market over the past 18 months, including the AppleTV, AirPort ExpressRoku Soundbridge Philips Streamium, Windows Media Edition etc. and some more “up-market” devices as well.

Unfortunately, at the moment there is no one product that can fulfill all the constraints above, although a “system” can be assembled from “point” solutions – my colleague Malc has been blogging on this (as have others).

My personal experience is with the Roku Soundbridge for distributing radio and music (as I live in France I like to get UK radio), Sky disk with 4 LUNs (and hence a cabled distribution of TV).

The market appears “open” for someone to take on this “media enabled house at a decent price point” as all the technologies and interoperability standards exist. However, all the vendors currently seem to be resting comfortably in the “safe knowledge bunkers” – simple design brief (digital rights aside):

1. Central server based on Mac or Windows

– to store CD collection
– to store DVD collection
– to store photo collection
– to store video collection
– to receive TV feeds
– to receive radio feeds
– to stream audio
– to stream video (including static pictures)
– to control changing of TV and radio channels

2. Room media box to

– subscribe to audio, photo and video streams from server
– to provide audio and video outputs
– to receive remote control commands and transmit to server

Does anyone do this well?


~ by Nigel on June 29, 2007.

6 Responses to “What I want for Christmas”

  1. Let me know when you find it, Nigel 🙂 AppleTV does everything except internet radio/radio and TV. The could do radio in the blink of an eye – not sure why they don’t.

  2. What really buggers this up is not only lack of open standards but probably even more problematic is DRM issues. Another example of the entertainment industry treating all their customers like criminals, forcing incompatibility, proliferating software and hardware hacks, etc.

    Anyhow I tried to build what you are looking for in our new house and well it just isn’t possible…we have an ‘ok’ solution, but too expensive – ironically made more so by requiring that it work with IP…wish there was an open source home entertainment stack.

    I don’t know nearly enough about it to make a smart judgement on such a business plan but in principle I think it is a huge opportunity for a few audio-visual geeks to build a huge business. % years from now, no new house will be built without an integrated network and it will be a standard refit in any renovation project.

  3. One of the biggest nightmares is trying to sync digital media files between multiple pc’s, ipods, servers, etc. – this is not allowed by Apple for instance because of course why would they (along with the music/movie industry) want to make their customers – people who have bought thousands and thousands of dollars of hardware and content – happy. Better to treat them like thieving liars. There has to be a better way…

  4. Sean agree there has to be a better way – just preparing to post some more on this topic and to follow up on you comments above (thanks for the comments btw)

  5. Could a Pixel Magic Media box be what you are after. See http://www.cyberselect.co.uk/category/42 . If it is let me know.

  6. Actually just re-read your requirements and a Pixel Media Box doesn’t fit your wireless requirements unless you combine it with a 802.11g Access Point and even then it appears to still lack standard TV feed capabilities. Unaware of anything that quite meets your requirements. Sonos is good for audio (and UI) but they don’t do video yet.

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