As Microsoft announced its new Extender solution today, many have been asking if it will be the new be-all, end-all for the home viewing experience. Some have called this an amazing development that deserves attention, while others are saying it's not all that great. I tend to agree with the second group.
For those of you who are unaware of this new product from Microsoft, Extender will be able to take any media (video, TV, music, print) from a PC to a television or from a television to another television in another room. In other words, you can have the same show playing in your bedroom and living room without missing a beat. Ideally, this would work with the help of a Media Center PC and a device being created by Linksys, D-Link and others.
This may sound great on paper, and the ability to move media around in my house like this would be nice, but is it really necessary? More often than not, I have the equipment I need to do this already. Sure, it may not be as easy as Microsoft's product, but if the current infrastructure is there, why get rid of it for something new? Simply put, this technology is a few years too late.
Now, before you try to tell me that I'm dumb for not loving this technology, I do have something nice to say about it: it would work quite well with a recorded television show. Think of it this way: if you're watching a recorded show in the living room and someone wants to use that television for another reason, you can easily send it to your bedroom to finish it. Now that is something that would appeal to me.
Other than that, I don't see the need for this product. If I want music in other rooms, I can easily buy a Roku Soundbridge or other solution that will put the music in any room I would like. News? I have a computer available to me in most rooms and if I really needed to, I could always flick on the TV, change the input to my Wii and browse the Web that way. And as for pictures? Well, a few software solutions and a networked house can easily get pictures on any computer in my home. And if I want to view them on a TV, chances are it'll have a place to plug my digital camera into it or maybe even an SD card. After all, the Extender will require a (according to the press release anyway) "big screen TV" and judging by Microsoft's focus on HD, chances are that means a big screen HDTV.
The premise of the Extender sounds fine, but with so many other solutions already available, I'm left wondering what could have been. It sounds fine and it's still too early for me to judge the product without actually using it, but for right now, the high barrier to entry (a Media Center PC plus additional hardware) and the relatively cheap alternative solutions at my disposal make it a bit impractical. That said, my opinion could change when I get my hands on a device. Time will tell.
Every Thursday, Don picks a current-events topic and discusses how it will impact us in the future. Check out more from Don's Future Implications series.