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View Full Version : SB3/media servers - way of the future?



mlihl
2006-03-26, 17:07
Hello everyone,

Do you believe that media servers and thin clients like
our SB3's for music and video are the future? Or do you
think PCs will eventually make it into our living rooms
thereby making thin clients obsolete? I guess we're living
in exciting times with big changes ahead. I'd love to hear
your comments on this.

Regards,

Mike

Mark Lanctot
2006-03-26, 19:11
I'm becoming a believer in single-purpose devices. A media PC is trying to be all things at once: DVD player, media streamer, PVR, TV tuner, audio receiver, etc. and I have serious doubts whether it can accomplish any of those functions better than a dedicated device. Also the companies involved with the media PC, Intel and Microsoft, aren't exactly experts in any of those fields, as big as they are.

I've seen some pretty poor implementations from companies operating outside their area of expertise and media PCs certainly fall in that category IMHO.

I would like to see more thin clients personally. Slim Devices had a good idea, quite radical at the time: use the cheap, powerful, scalable PC to provide the bulk of the computing power and use a thin client to accomplish things the computer cannot: silent operation, a good display without the need for a full monitor or a TV connection, plus audio circuitry a run-of-the-mill PC could never hope to achieve. I think other devices could take advantage of this concept as well and I would be more apt to trust a product made within a niche company's core competency rather than a product made by a non-specialist company aimed at the mass market.

That said, it doesn't matter what I think...because Intel and Microsoft are gearing up to put a media PC in every home. There will be millions, possibly billions, spent on marketing - it's seen as the next major growth area for PCs now that office and home PCs have reached saturation. So I doubt whether little old me will make a difference in the face of such a juggernaut. :-)

snarlydwarf
2006-03-26, 19:39
I agree, Mark. I think the 'best' solution is a central server with slightly smart clients, which is what Squeezeboxes give me.

I don't want multiple copies of my music to keep synched.

I don't want the other alternative with a centralized server -and- central amp and such with the client being (if you're lucky) a volume control on the wall, and -maybe- an RF remote if you're rich). Climbing into the attic to wire that would be low on my list of fun things.

The Squeezebox/Slimserver method sits nicely in the middle, allowing a central data store, but unique clients.

It's hard to say what will win: I'm not sure what Microsoft's plans are with Xbox360/Windows Media Center... it looks like they want very smart and expensive hardware in every room, with a TV, in order to listen to music.... Sony is planning something with the PS3, but like most PS3 things, exactly what they are planning is unknown... but it will most likely be similar to the Media Center stuff and require a TV for control, certainly for display.

Again, I'm biased: I bought 2 squeezeboxes because they fit into my ideals on the way it should be. I think it is the correct way, but I don't know what will win: I fear it will be the Microsoft model, complete with DRM, and that CD's will be made into CDROM's full of WMA files (not even lossless).

stinkingpig
2006-03-26, 19:40
mlihl wrote:
> Hello everyone,
>
> Do you believe that media servers and thin clients like
> our SB3's for music and video are the future? Or do you
> think PCs will eventually make it into our living rooms
> thereby making thin clients obsolete? I guess we're living
> in exciting times with big changes ahead. I'd love to hear
> your comments on this.
>
> Regards,
>
> Mike
>

I totally think this is the way of the future, and I'm watching the QNap
discussions with interest... if it had the horsepower of a SFF and the
silence of a NAS, it'd be a no-brainer solution.

Even computer professionals are getting sick of having houses full of
computers, and the idea has never been appealing to "normal people".
Having all the flexibility of a computer left in the
office/basement/rec-room while the rest of the house gets the benefits
makes a lot of sense.

--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip Since 1996

stinkingpig
2006-03-26, 19:45
Mark Lanctot wrote:
....
> That said, it doesn't matter what I think...because Intel and Microsoft
> are gearing up to put a media PC in every home. There will be millions,
> possibly billions, spent on marketing - it's seen as the next major
> growth area for PCs now that office and home PCs have reached
> saturation. So I doubt whether little old me will make a difference in
> the face of such a juggernaut. :-)
>
>
Just remember the Itanium, or as The Register loved to call it, the
Itanic... they can spend whatever they want on marketing, it doesn't
necessarily mean that they'll sell any boxes :) WindowsME got plenty of
marketing too, and $DIETY pity the poor folks who bought it... it
certainly didn't take over the home market the way that Microsoft
intended for it to do.


--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip Since 1996

Mark Lanctot
2006-03-26, 20:04
Mark Lanctot wrote:
> That said, it doesn't matter what I think...because Intel and Microsoft
> are gearing up to put a media PC in every home. There will be millions,
> possibly billions, spent on marketing - it's seen as the next major
> growth area for PCs now that office and home PCs have reached
> saturation. So I doubt whether little old me will make a difference in
> the face of such a juggernaut. :-)
>
>
Just remember the Itanium, or as The Register loved to call it, the
Itanic... they can spend whatever they want on marketing, it doesn't
necessarily mean that they'll sell any boxes :) WindowsME got plenty of
marketing too, and $DIETY pity the poor folks who bought it... it
certainly didn't take over the home market the way that Microsoft
intended for it to do.


Yes, good point. Given the "cocooning" trend going on though, home theatres are hot. Even if Joe Six-Pack doesn't know the difference between good equipment and bad equipment, he wants it. The media PC may very well appeal to the mass-market. It may be more cost-effective than the 5 or 6 different devices it's designed to replace.

Almost everyone here knows that it won't be as good, but that often doesn't matter. :-)

We'll have to wait and see.

Notice that thin clients are very popular among the geek crowd. I won't speak for anyone but myself, but I personally put the Squeezebox in that category. On the video side, everyone seems to talk about the Slingbox, which also seems to appeal to the geeks.

Thin clients have never really made it fully mainstream yet. Computer-based devices like the Xbox360 and the PS3 certainly have/will make it mainstream. We'll see if the media PC does the same.

Jacob Potter
2006-03-26, 20:05
On 3/26/06, Mark Lanctot
<Mark.Lanctot.25b3az1143425701 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> wrote:
>
> That said, it doesn't matter what I think...because Intel and Microsoft
> are gearing up to put a media PC in every home. There will be millions,
> possibly billions, spent on marketing - it's seen as the next major
> growth area for PCs now that office and home PCs have reached
> saturation. So I doubt whether little old me will make a difference in
> the face of such a juggernaut. :-)

Microsoft seems to be hedging their bets; they've got the Media Center
thing, but they're also pushing the Xbox 360. Of course, the '360 is
insanely loud itself...

- Jacob

Mark Lanctot
2006-03-26, 20:18
At the risk of taking this thread OT, which is not what I want to do as it beats all the troubleshooting threads lately, I'm getting the impression the Xbox 360 isn't what I think it is.

I thought it was just another console player but I get the impression it's more than that? I think I read it can stream audio, and I suppose that means it can stream video too?

Is MS intending for it to be a light-duty media PC?

stinkingpig
2006-03-26, 21:31
Mark Lanctot wrote:
....
> Thin clients have never really made it fully mainstream yet.
> Computer-based devices like the Xbox360 and the PS3 certainly have/will
> make it mainstream. We'll see if the media PC does the same.
>
>
>
But do any of the people buying XBoxes realize that it's a computer?
They're buying it instead of playing games on their PCs because it's an
appliance for playing games.

I do think that the server side could be more appliance-ized
successfully, hence my interest in the success or otherwise of the Qnap
type solutions.

--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip Since 1996

Michaelwagner
2006-03-26, 21:51
I think ultimately this one will be decided not by M$ marketing but by how the concept fits into people's lives. And I think Mark is on to something ... most people want appliances, things that do one thing well. And they want complete solutions.

Look at how well combined appliances have done. Some have done well ... the toaster oven - it's a toaster, it's an oven.

Some have done astonishingly poorly - the convection oven. Cooks in half the time, uses half the energy. Seemed like a good idea to me. Do you know anyone who has one?

My cousin has a microwave oven with a built in voice recorder. The idea is she can dictate into it instructions for the next meal. The kids come home, hit the button, hear the instructions and microwave their supper.

I think the owner of the company might have bought one too. That makes 2.

I think the idea that one big powerful computer can do everything is fine for geeks (who don't mind managing the complexity). I think most people are totally undone by it (helped along, no doubt, by most contemporary O/S software, which is undone by about 5 concurrent tasks - if the world made any sense, that would be the death of M$ venture into multi-media all by itself).

So what does this mean for Slim.

It means people want to have complete solutions that come out of the box. While the SB is a great thing for geeks, most people want to open their new sound appliance, plug it in, start shoving CDs into it's mouth, and start listening to music 10 minutes later.

I think they accept that they'll need weeks to push all their CDs into it.

I think they accept that it'll be wired up to several things - power, the home stereo or theatre, network.

I think the stumbling block for many people is the fact that it's an incomplete solution. They still have to supply the computer, the hard disk, configure it, size it, install it, debug it, etc.

I think if Slim would private label some small box with a small processor, a huge hard disk, a CD-ROM, a network interface, with a small or no fan and pre-loaded with software, it would make a huge difference.

Then a complete squeezebox system would be one base unit and so many satelites.

I know, everyone will say, why don't you do it. Aside from the fact that I don't have either the time or the money at the moment, it wouldn't be the same coming from me.

The consumer wants to buy the package from one guy. If they buy the computer from me and the players from Slim, they're going to say "what's up with that? Why isn't it all coming from one place? How do I know it will all work together?"

I know every posting like this ends up being "why are you telling Slim how to run their business?". I'm not. Really. I'm not telling them to design such a thing from the ground up. I'm suggesting they could private label anyone elses adequate solution, stick a slim devices vinyl sticker on it and make out like bandits.

I'm not advocating renunciation of the state religion which, as we all know, is thin clients. But nowhere in the religious doctrine does it say that a requirement for ascent into heaven is that the mass market must supply their own server and configure it themselves. You can still get the benefit of thin client if you supply the fat server.

(or should that be phat?)

My 2 cents worth.

Kevin O. Lepard
2006-03-26, 22:34
>On the video side, everyone seems to talk about the Slingbox, which
>also seems to appeal to the geeks.

Or check out Orb. And MythTV. :-)
--
Kevin O. Lepard

Happiness is being 100% Microsoft free.

Kevin O. Lepard
2006-03-26, 22:37
>But do any of the people buying XBoxes realize that it's a computer?

Actually, quite a few of us bought it _because_ it's a computer.
Install a mod chip and boom, you're running MAME or other emulators.
There are a lot of cool things you can do with a modded Xbox.

Kevin
--
Kevin O. Lepard

Happiness is being 100% Microsoft free.

Kevin O. Lepard
2006-03-26, 22:40
>I think if Slim would private label some small box with a small
>processor, a huge hard disk, a CD-ROM, a network interface, with a
>small or no fan and pre-loaded with software, it would make a huge
>difference.

I've floated this idea, too. I'm sure they've thought about it at
SlimDevices as well. I guess they don't think it's worthwhile. I'm
not enough of a businessman to be sure if it would be a money maker
or not. My feeling is that it would, but again, I'm not a business
expert.

Kevin
--
Kevin O. Lepard

Happiness is being 100% Microsoft free.

Pale Blue Ego
2006-03-26, 22:45
Why should Slim sell computers, when computers are cheap? We have seen many many attempts to build all-in-1 music servers - they are just buggy computers.

Anyone who knows computers would simply build their own, use their own OS, taggers, backup routines, like we do. Anyone who doesn't know computers would be undone by the non-appliance nature of the thing. "What?!? What's a TAG? Why can't I just plug it in and listen to all my music? I have to think about bitrates? What's a bitrate? It quit working and I already sold all my CDs! What now? Why didn't you tell me hard drives only last a few years?!!"

I think Slim is about 10 years ahead of the mainstream on this.

)p(
2006-03-27, 00:05
I disagree with most of you. I think the media center pc in combination with media center extenders is a great idea. And I do think it will work good enough for most people when its develops into a mature product. There is lots of flexibility in this concept. You can have a full blown media center as a client using an external display. But you can als have a much slimmer extenders with or without their own screens.

peter

Peter van der Landen
2006-03-27, 00:23
On Sun, 26 Mar 2006 21:34:56 -0800, "Kevin O. Lepard"
<kolepard002 (AT) charter (DOT) net> said:
> >On the video side, everyone seems to talk about the Slingbox, which
> >also seems to appeal to the geeks.
>
> Or check out Orb. And MythTV. :-)

Well, there's an interesting way to merge MythTV, thin clients *and* the
Squeezebox/Slimserver model.

I ordered a Hauppauge MediaMVP thin client (disk and fanless micropc
with a remote control) last week (70 EUR) that's supposed to be able to
work as a thin client for MythTV and SlimServer if you use the
alternative boot image:

http://mvpmc.sourceforge.net/

I also ordered two SB3's last week and I'm happy to see that the
Squeezbox is finally starting to look as expensive as it is. On the
functional side the display is a huge improvement.

Regards,
Peter

Skunk
2006-03-27, 00:47
I do think it will work good enough for most people when its develops into a mature product.

I think slim plus really large buffers will be the way, with multiple devices integrated to the same music folder. For example, A car stereo that can load 60gigs wirelessly, or a Squeezebox that can play for 24 hours without server contact, and of course the ubiquitous portable device.

Anyway, I agree the key will be making them 'work good enough for most people', but more importantly _work together_. An itunes/SS interface with tabbed sections for seperate rooms, plus tabs for car(s) and portable players would be ideal, especially if they updated themselves wirelessly/automatically.

Michaelwagner
2006-03-27, 01:16
Why should Slim sell computers, when computers are cheap?
The point is not price, the point is "I want one solution from one vendor, so when there's a problem, there's no finger pointing".

Michaelwagner
2006-03-27, 01:18
I think Slim is about 10 years ahead of the mainstream on this.
But if they want to be around when the mainstream catches up, they need a sustainable business model in the meantime.

How many geeks are there in the world? Enough to keep them going? I don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

autopilot
2006-03-27, 02:56
I think its a misstake to have just one vision of the future, one model for doing things for everyone. I think there are benifits to both thin clients and multiple PC's everywhere. Different people what different things and the tech companies should respond to that by offering different solutions. Thats becoming more and more obvious to me and what makes it all so interesting.

My personal favourite solution, for now anyway, it to have central server in my home study/media room and feeding things like squeezeboxs, video streaming boxs. I really don't want another PC in my living room.

There are pros and cons to both, but for me it's that fact that i have just one PC to worry about. And appart from space and noise issues, i have to think about the non-techy people in my life. I dont want to have to turn the TV on mess around either, and i PC simply are not stable enough yet. Has my DVD player ever crashed? No, i just plug in it and use it. And what about the costs too? In theory having mutiple PC boxs shoule be more expensive too.

I also dont like the fact that some people are taking the concept of 'Digital Convergence' too far. Yes, somethings are ment to come together, like portable MP3 players and mobile phones, but i also prefer one dedicated device that does it's job well rather than a jack of all trades - master of neither.

For me, it's not Convergence but integration thats the key. Thats one of the reasons we are seeing a boom in products like the Squeezebox, IMO.

Thats not to say Media Cente type PC's are not the right solution for some people. But the future should catter for us, whatever we want. Is that not what technology is for?




PS, that said the future maybe even more different than anyone of us think. Just look at mobile phones and the power they have now. PC's and gadgets as we know them will be vastly different.

walt
2006-03-27, 05:52
Mike,

I definitively belive, that streaming clients for custumers like me,
will be the future. I realy don't want to have my music collection just
in one place. And btw. even if the pc would be the same size and sexy
like a SB3 (will not be possible because of the mass storage anyway), I
want to have a flexible solution for every room at my home. So, a
centralized solution with a small server in my office with several
audio/video clients fit best for me. May be in the future, clients like
SB3 will have a color graphics touch-screen (~5") which you can bild
into the wall or as a standalone nice designed client. Well we will see.
But may be for some common customers, a full silent pc will will fit too.

Cheers
Walt

mlihl schrieb:

>Hello everyone,
>
>Do you believe that media servers and thin clients like
>our SB3's for music and video are the future? Or do you
>think PCs will eventually make it into our living rooms
>thereby making thin clients obsolete? I guess we're living
>in exciting times with big changes ahead. I'd love to hear
>your comments on this.
>
>Regards,
>
>Mike
>
>
>
>