Macmini, the perfect media centre for my living room?

MiniMac

It was odd, I usually find my views are usually much closer aligned with Doc Searls than Steve Gillmor. But during a short time period while this weeks Gillmor Gang, Dan Farber, Doc Searls, Mike Arrington and Dana Gardner start chatting about the Apple Minimac announcment earlier in the week. Well Doc and others were saying it was no good as a home entertainment box because it had no Tuner input, while Steve was saying screw that its got a network port what more do you need?

And you know what Steve is right on this one. IP delivery is where its at. Yes it nice to have a digital TV tuner card but that whole PVR time shifting thing is over rated in my view. (Saying that, if Bit torrent was to go away tomorrow I would run out and buy a Twin Tuner Freeview PVR straight away). I keep hearing about the huge leap from scheduled programming to time shifted, and it is. But its also equally a huge jump from time shifted to on demand. This is not new ground, many people are exploring the world of on demand already. For example I was out at Wiki Wednesday today and missed the UK Apprentice, but it does not matter because by the time I wake up tomorrow, it will be downloading without using any of my attention. And even if i wait a week or even a month I could still get that same episode somehow without too much searching. Thats on demand. No actually that's the 3rd era of so called broadcasting.

Anyhow back to the Mac, Front row's new features are no match for Xbox media centre but I'm sure they will get better over time. If not there always other options like the Xbox 360 (if you can get your hands one), Playstation 3 (if it comes out before 2007) or even a nice shuttle PC.

Lets have deeper look at what makes the Macmini a nice machine for my living room. Well first its now got a Intel Core Duo which means it should handle 1080i HDTV with AC3 surround sound without too much problem. Like I said although Front row is no Xbox Media Centre and a long way off Windows Media Centre. Its looks pretty good for that living room remote control domain. I really need to go into a Apple store and try it out sometime soon as its kind of hard to tell just from pictures. Optical out should mean 5.1 surround sound isn't that far off. Its got a DVI output and does not seem to contain that DRM standard HCDP which means we won't get that scary Windows Vista thing where it will switch off the video unless you have the licence. I don't believe the Xbox 360 has this, but its hard to tell till its been hacked.

However there are lots of disadvantages to using a Mac. The DVD drives tend to be region locked which will make my old DVD's from America a pain to play on this machine. The remote is simple but thats the problem, its too simplic. I'm use to doing things like queuing up a selection of podcasts and videos then let it run through-out the day, it doesn't seem like you can do that from that remote? On the sound front, the Mac does not have a dolby digital chip like the xboxes, so I'll have to say goodbye to the upscaling of Dolby Surround to Dolby Digital.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.