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Convergence? Bah!

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Flibblebot 7th September 2005, 13:58 Quote
The idea of convergence is a good one (just look at the number of people who have hifi minisystems as opposed to full-size separates) - but people don't necessarily want a PC in their living room.
Apart from the fact that most people (by which I mean non-gamers, people who are "different" from us ;) ) see the PC as something they use at work for spreadsheets and word processing. They don't use 90% of the power of the PC that sits on their desks, and they don't imagine that a PC can be used for anything else. If they have a PC at home, chances are it's used for a bit of WP (Christmas letters to all the family), viewing pictures and a bit of e-mail and browsing. Again, most of the power is wasted.

Most people simply don't see the PC as something that can do all of these all-singing, all-dancing activities - so if Intel and MS are going to be successful in their plans for world domination, then they have to disguise the fact that people are using PCs at all (for a start, make them quiet!). Xbox360 is a start, but it will be bought as a games console - the fact that it does anything else is an added bonus, not a reason to purchase.

For convergence to happen, machines need to be disguised, their ease-of-use needs to be improved many-fold (let's have plug-and-play that actually delivers what it promises), and companies need to stop talking about them as PCs: someone needs to come up with a phrase that describes what they are without mentioning the word PC - any ideas so that we can trademark it before Intel does?
Da Dego 7th September 2005, 15:28 Quote
The PC can easily enter into the living room, Flibblebot...look at TiVo. DVR is a PC with a capture card, a pathetically simple OS, and a hard drive.

My parents, two very untechnological people, have a DVD-R and a DVR unit set up on their TV. Factor this in with a satellite receiver, a full surround-sound system, a separate DVD player (no, I don't understand why, either), and a stereo in their living room. Will they do an HTPC when it can be shown how well it works? Ooooh, yeah. But it's all about the benefits and the ease of use.

My wife is another example. She's not a technophile like us, but she will embrace any technology to the point that it genuinely makes her life easier. She doesn't want a 512mb graphics card on an A64 4800+, or a big plasma TV...but she wants a computer that can play guild wars, and a TV that can allow her to watch her shows, play her DVDs, and if it's convenient and easy, allow her to record them, play music, and play downloaded content.

As Wil says, sometimes we have to adjust focus back to the consumer, instead of just on forward momentum. This is a very important theme in the discussion about HTPC or any other integrated system...because the technology is nice, but if your wife is throwing your new HTPC out the window because she can't turn the damn TV channel anymore, it doesn't do much good. ;)
r00t69 7th September 2005, 17:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
The idea of convergence is a good one (just look at the number of people who have hifi minisystems as opposed to full-size separates)

How is that a convergence device? If it included a Wi-Fi connection then yes but a change in form factors does not constitue convergence!

The gap between what a consumer actually needs and a vendors all dancing product is filled by marketing :)

Trust me I build HTPC's, etc as a sideline and my customers find it so refreshing when I tell they they don't need x part or spend £x amount. The key aspect as mentioned already is simplicity. With single use devices people "get it"! A DVD play DVD's, A Sterio allows you to listen to music, a VHS recorder allows to you play and record to VHS tapes. However when you get into a discussion on HTPC's, etc it just gets too complicated for the average consumer.
Firehed 7th September 2005, 18:16 Quote
Good read, excellent points. Centralizing stuff is all well and good, forcing utterly pointless upgrades just sucks. I've seen 1080p next to reencoded-to-XviD standard DVD (480p?) and I can't tell the slightest difference in picture quality. I could give less of a care about Hi-Def for movies (gaming, on the other hand... but those aren't prerendered like movies, if you will), and the idea behind the anti-piracy security on Blu-Ray at least are quite Brave New Worldish ("you tweaked it? we'll break it and you get to go buy a new one thank you very much") I know for one I'll prevent any sort of net access to the thing (assuming it's wireless, like hell would I run a cable a movie player just so antipiracy stuff can work) with MAC filtering at the least.

The marketing gimmicks really just irk me to no end. Make it sound good while throwing in all of these things that remove any freedoms you may have digitally posessed. There's only one DVD I've ever wanted that wasn't from my region that I was FORCED to pirate, simply because it just can't be found in the states anywhere. One of the few decent enough to actually warrant my money, but their loss.

I don't want my cell phone to play movies or replace my iPod. Well, I could care less if it could. Signal is still less than nothing in my room where I spend most of my time, and I think they should really take the "f*** new features until you will never get disconnected coast-to-coast" approach. The only time I've ever had consistantly good signal was when I was at the BSA Jamboree this summer, and it so happened that my campsite was all of 100ft from a huge cell tower. People get cell phones to talk to people, and if they can't do that, we could care less about how you can download some low-quality video with forced commercials in it.

Speaking of which, how much longer will people put up with uPOPs with DVDs, etc? I've really stopped buying movies and downloading them all simply because I don't want to put up with the CRAP. Hmm... pay $20 for a movie where I can't skip over previews and have to sit at the main menu for twenty minutes where it does it's graphical wonderfullness before I can play the damn movie or download the thing for free and get exactly the same thing minus all the BS I was trying to avoid? That's a toughie...
I'd love to try and start a nation(world?)-wide boycott on buying DVDs until they remove the crap. Seeing as I just got a job at the local video store I doubt my boss would like that too much, but everyone I know has complained about it.



So... what am I saying? Do what consumers want before worrying about anything else. Their slow transition into taking away every one of our digital rights is annoying but nonetheless effective, but I think the High-def stuff and Viiv will simply take it too far. VHS, sure the quality sucked, but you could fast-forward thru previews and the FBI warning. The antipiracy measures only increase it - they piss off more people with each new one, and as the measures only work on those that don't care, you get the idea.

Before anything gets centralized, listen to the customers! We don't want previews, especially ones we can't skip. We care about cell coverage before being able to download crap on our phone. We care that our computers are (feel) fast much more than that the desktop is all eye-sex (which is usually fugly anyways imo).

So who else is with me on trying to boycott this crap?

(don't mind the mega-post, I'm quite irritated by these things as you can tell and thus quite passionate about it)
Isotopian 7th September 2005, 18:41 Quote
Right on you guys. I don't have a big speech to make, but I totally agree with Firehed- the degree 'they' are going to now to restrict you from using media is so ridiculous it seems like they WANT us to stop buying them. I can just see all them MPIA guys sitting around their desks... "Hmm... I know! Let's MAKE them watch the previews! *high fives all around* And then we'll sue them if they dont'!" My conscious won't allow me to straight up pirate movies, and I still go to theatres cuz it's not their fault (I used to work projectionist at one, so I always feel bad for the management), but I do rent movies and then rip them. And really great movies (like Sin City) I'll go out and buy them! So, instead of stealing things outright, I've just modified the way that I'm willing to pay for them.

Well enough on that subject, back to convergence. My cell phone has no games on it, but it does have great service and call quality (its an LG), and for some reason I seem to like that better than all the POS Nokias that are floating around. My computer surround system doubles as our home theatre system. As a broke college student, myself and my roomates use my Xbox with the HD kit to use component out to our tv and optical to the surround system, and all we have to do is power everything on and press play. It really isn't about the complexity of everything, it's about the simplicity. When I have to decide between new hardware and eating for a week, I have to be sure that I'm not going hungry for a piece of crap. So when something works well, and isn't overly complicated, it'll be used to it's full extent. But when something is ridiculously bloated and has a retarded interface, it just won't succeed in the mainstream market (or worse it will).

So I guess I lied, this is a decent size speech, but I agree strongly with everyone above, that when companies stop making 'Jack of all Trades, Master of None' products, and instead focus on intelligent multitasking, we'll all be that much happier.
blackerthanblack 8th September 2005, 10:12 Quote
I agree that things have to just work; just connect up, plug in and go (there are still lots of ppl out there who can't program a video).

I have a cable box, dvd, and video and each of them need little or no setup, they just happen. This is the way I want it to be. I know that if I made or even bought an HT setup there would be endless screens and configurations to go through before it would work to an acceptable standard.

Another thing that annoys me is the mobiles which try to be other things like mini games machines - they end up looking and feeling like the old analogue mobile phones, clunky and clumsy to use. I'd much rather have two thing that do what they're supposed to well than one thing that I don't like to use for anything.
Flibblebot 8th September 2005, 10:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by r00t69
How is that a convergence device? If it included a Wi-Fi connection then yes but a change in form factors does not constitue convergence!
It's not just the change in form factor - when I was a kid (many moons ago, when PCs were just a glint in the eye of IBM), you had a separate record player, a separate radio, and a separate casette player. Unless you were a real audiophile (and they were much rarer than they are today), each had it's own built-in amp and speaker. The real convergence in HiFi came when someone, somewhere decided to bundle them all in one cabinet.
That is convergence, because it combined devices that many consumers at the time considered to be disparate.
The only wireless connection involved was the aerial for the radio :)


DaDego, I'm aware that the PC already exists (in some form) in a Tivo and other DVRs - but the point I was trying to make is that the fact that it is a PC has been disguised - because consumers don't care that it's a PC, as long as it works.
What I was trying to say (obviously not very successfully) is that to succeed, anything Microsoft and Intel produce in terms of convergent HTPC devices needs to (a) work flawlessly without user intervention; and (b) not look like a PC - that means OS as well as case design.
Xen0phobiak 9th September 2005, 13:05 Quote
"He has a great stereo - capable of far better quality than the MP3s he rips to the Xbox - but that doesn't really matter."

The Xbox actually rips wma's in the typical Microsoft fashion. ;)

I do agree with the "machine that does the job" approach though. From my point of view, a dual tuner MCE powered htpc in th living room would be ideal for my mum, but the several VCR's in the house 'do the job', plus her and her friends that swap tapes when one of them forgets to record something, couldnt put a VHS in it.
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