Monday, May 23, 2005

Xbox 360 is going to change everything...and I don't mean videogames

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Gizmodo has an interesting tidbit up right now about Microsoft's newest gaming console, the Xbox 360, that not a lot of other people seem to be reporting: that it's fully compliant with Microsoft's new Media Center operating system for PCs, and the PC version fully compliant with the Xbox. You know what this means, don't you? For the first time, we will finally have the killer product for that fabled "networked home" that everyone's been ballyhooing over the years. It's relatively cheap (a few hundred dollars, versus a few thousand for a PC); is tricked out to handle video and audio well; has a nice simple interface that lets you plug a TV and stereo into one end and a computer into the other; is both broadband- and Wifi-ready; and works with most of the equipment you already own (unless you're a Mac/Palm home, like mine is, but we're in the minority here). This is going to change everything - you'll be able to send those downloaded movie trailers and porn clips straight to your high-definition television now, send MP3s and internet radio stations straight to your home stereo. You can get a flashing message on your TV when an important email comes in. You can have your TV mute itself when you pick up the phone. And sure, ways of doing this have technically existed for a number of years - but the Xbox 360 is the first product to make it cheap, and make it easy.

I was one of the people laughing the hardest when Bill Gates announced in 1995 that the future of computing was on the internet. (I, like most others who followed that stuff back then, thought the future was in CD-ROMs.) But I learned my lesson, which is that Gates has such an enormous impact on the entire high-tech community, he can literally self-fulfill any prophecy he gets in his head. For the last year or so I've been carefully following the news on this whole Media Center system Gates is trying to build these days, because 1) he talks about it with the kind of passion that he did about the internet in 1995; and 2) it seems just as implausible right now as the dominance of the internet did in 1995. I think when you see this new Xbox get released, it's going to be the start of a whole new way of doing things at home - of finally having one system that controls and communicates with every piece of technology you own. Mark my words - I think the entire nature of home computing will change radically once this starts happening.

(And hell, think of the things that haven't even been invented yet: air-conditioning that runs on a Media Center operating system; lights; security system; baby-monitoring; it just goes on and on.)