Sure, you can buy a PC for your living room today, but there's no clean way to get a high-definition, or HD, television signal on it. This makes using a $1,000 (or more) PC instead of a $49 TiVo a pretty tough sell. But later this year, ATI will ship an OCUR (open cable unidirectional receiver) product, enabling a PC to play and record HD cable, as well as over-the-air HD signals.
There will be both external and internal versions of the product, although, oddly, both will connect to a PC via USB (the internal version won't use the PC's card slots). The first version of the product will ship with Windows Vista later this year; a retail version will be available in 2007.
The big issue with HD and PCs, of course, is rights management. The networks don't want you recording their shows in pristine digital format, then sharing them with the world. Getting that part of the equation figured out is one of the things that has delayed PC HD products. The ATI product will allow you to share HD recordings with devices in your home, but not outside it. How will it know? By keeping track of network latency (ping time) between devices. It remains to be seen if media redirectors, such as the Sling Box and Orb, will be slowed down by this oddball roadblock.