The HTPC is Dead -- Not! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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"The HTPC is Dead" -- Not!
Author: Tom Abell


In a recent article, Ben Drawbaugh, a contributing author for Engadget, claimed that the “Home Theater PC is dead” in his subject line for a recent article. As with my last article here on Home Toys where I pointed out evidences contradicting David Pogue’s logic around the statement that “no one in Americaland cares” about the Connected Home, I find myself needing to politely disagree with Mr. Drawbaugh. I’m sorry Ben, the HTPC is not dead!

If you ask me, the HTPC is perfectly positioned for the wave of public awareness coming towards the Connected Home. Instead of removing an option for people, why not leave the HTPC in its current position as the high-end solution for integrating your Home Theater not only with the world’s content, but also with the rest of the house as well! As much as I believe that these embedded devices of various operating systems will appeal to the majority of home users because of their simplicity, I also believe that the amount of people who want the extra power and functionality that an HTPC brings to the table will continue grow as well.

Read the complete article at HomeToys.com
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post #2 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 03:02 PM
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The claim that HTPCs are dead is ridiculous. If anything, this is the age of the HTPC.

Sure MOST people aren't going to mess with building a HTPC unless they are a gamer, a pirate, or they desire home automation. With that said though Boxee and Google (via its Google TV) are cranking out little HTPC units with real x86 guts. If those boxes aren't HTPCs, nothing are.

The real thing that is dying in the HTPC field is the "build your own DVR" movement. Cablecard, encrypted digital channels, and fragmented PVR communities can make a self built DVR to be a "bag of hurt."

But the future isn't recording your own locally saved content, the future is streaming content from providers like Hulu and Netflix. Who even NEEDS the local channels when every show you want is online?

The only problem with the streaming model is that content providers are TERRIFIED by a future where their programs are primary distributed on the internet, if only because they will make less money. Higher-end TVs all come with "apps" as of 2010, but none come with the content people really want like the free Hulu site.

This is where HTPC shine. Every time a content provider makes some arbitrary rule about "this box can have the content, but this box can't," HTPCs can use their general purpose power to blow the rules away.

I have often thought if a content provider could see all that is available for Plex (as an example) they would have a heart attack. Hulu does its best to lock out ten foot interfaces from having its content, as just as quickly hackers find ways to undo their wishes and put that content in a remote driven interface thanks to the power of HTPCs.

Until the content providers give up and learn they can never win, the HTPC will always have a special place in the AV community...
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post #3 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 05:52 PM
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The HTPC is dead? Tell that to the ever increasing number of users over on the various HTPC forums. On one forum, perhaps half the questions got answered a year ago. Now virtually every question is, and with 5 or ten responses. There are new people joining every day. That doesn't sound dead to me. In fact, it seems to be gaining momentum.

On the AV Science forums, right now there are 333 people viewing. the HTPC forum. That's more than any other forum here except LCD TVs at 425. It even beat Plasma TVs at 294. The other forums have an order of magnitude fewer people viewing that the HTPC forum.

The HTPC in its current form is not for everyone. It takes some work and knowledge to get it setup. Most of the work is getting the DVR part of it running right. The third party hardware manufacturers making recording equipment have been sloppy, and their drivers and sofware are not up to spec. There is nothing wrong with the Media Center software itself, and it's nice that its included in three Windows 7 versions, Home Premium, Pro and Ultimate, so it is readily available. The rest of Media Center is a snap to setup.

I put a lot of hours into building my HTPC, and even so, it was well worth the effort. It's a fun and rewarding hobby. The Media Center program guide alone is worth the effort, with its great search ability, and excellent program descriptions, that far exceed that any cable or satellite DVR supplies in its program guide. It's far faster and more complete than online guides, too. I'm finding shows and channels that i didn't even know existed, and am really enjoying it. I store my home videos and pictures on my Media Center, so I can bring those up whenever I want. I can surf the web, including HULU and the networks, and not get blocked. I can watch full resolution HD video on other Windows 7 computers in my home. I have mirrored harddisks on my Media Center, so if one fails, I still have my videos. The typical DVR would leave you with nothing.

Media Center is best kept secret out there.

Michael
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post #4 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 07:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael2000 View Post

The HTPC is dead? Tell that to the ever increasing number of users over on the various HTPC forums. On one forum, perhaps half the questions got answered a year ago. Now virtually every question is, and with 5 or ten responses. There are new people joining every day. That doesn't sound dead to me. In fact, it seems to be gaining momentum.


Michael

And that is exactly the point of the article, it's in refrerence to another article written a week or so ago that claimed that "the Home Theater PC is dead". The article disputes that claim.

The title should have read "The HTPC is Dead" - Not!

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post #5 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 07:05 PM
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okay to clear the point for mr drawbaugh, the article is "The home theater PC is dead, long live Windows Media Center" ben is an avid htpc guy. his personal system is a media center computer. his entire argument isn't that htpc's are going away, only that they aren't going to be an "every home" option. This seems to be the statement that everyone on here has made. Unfortunately this article had a terrible title, and there have been a lot of reactions without people either a: reading the article, or b: listening to bens explanation of it. If anyone wants to hear his point of view he, and richard lawler do a weekly podcast called engadget hd, and they have discussed this at length.

Hey, I'm a reasonable guy. But I've just experienced some very unreasonable things
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post #6 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 08:20 PM
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My 76 year old father-in-law just asked me to build him a "PC we can hook up to the TV" so he and my mother-in-law can watch Netflix movies and tv shows, listen to their CDs and watch their DVDs by picking from covers, genres, artists (and not searching through boxes), check the weather, surf the web, Skype with his son overseas, etc.

76 years old. The HTPC is NOT dead. It's just being born.

 

 

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post #7 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 08:54 PM
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obviously the htpc is not dead. current blu-ray players and hdtv's prove that. they are mimicing htpcs with limited functionality.

and with the hardware available its just getting cheaper and easier to have a fully networked entertainment center. even if you dont want a dedicated piece of AV equipment, theres no reason a laptop cant function as a portable htpc.
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post #8 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dgowen75 View Post

okay to clear the point for mr drawbaugh, the article is "The home theater PC is dead, long live Windows Media Center" ben is an avid htpc guy. his personal system is a media center computer. his entire argument isn't that htpc's are going away, only that they aren't going to be an "every home" option. This seems to be the statement that everyone on here has made. Unfortunately this article had a terrible title, and there have been a lot of reactions without people either a: reading the article, or b: listening to bens explanation of it. If anyone wants to hear his point of view he, and richard lawler do a weekly podcast called engadget hd, and they have discussed this at length.

I should be clear, and hopefully it came across in the article, that I meant no disrespect towards Ben. However, beyond the title there were references to the fact that the chances that "HTPCs will ever emerge from their niche status are gone" and "HTPCs simply will never go mainstream.".

It is these comments that I have issues with. The only reason I have issues with them is because first of all, they not only unsubstantiated claims now, but honestly can never be because in truth we can't possibly know what the future holds.

So my point was about the language being used in recent articles from very accomplished authors that are seemingly "killing off" our options instead of encouraging innovation in ALL areas of the connected home.

No offense intended towards Ben or anyone else.

Tom

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post #9 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 09:25 PM
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Name HTPC is dead.

Pc's just connect to TVs now in the avg joes eyes.


Agreed that PC on tv would be great, but you know its so he can watch his dirty old man shows on big screen right
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post #10 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

...The HTPC is NOT dead. It's just being born.

I couldn't agree more!

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post #11 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 10:29 PM
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.....But it will die a slow agonizing death if it can't be made to be an 'outta the box' solution that doesn't require constant tinkering with a solid user interface that the whole family can use without freeze-ups, reboots, and in house 'technical' assistance.
Manufacturers take heed.....you can still be the savior of this noble concept.
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post #12 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 10:58 PM
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You had me worried so I double checked... mine is still running.

If I were Wilford Brimley, I'd like oatmeal that much too.
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post #13 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 03:36 AM
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I think the only hope for HTPC is an iPad like device with ONE app that controls it all, totally integrated. It is otherwise way too complicated to make it work. I've been doing DIY stuff for years and I've always thought of the HTPC as too much of a challenge to get started, a big challenge to keep going and an even bigger challenge to teach to the family.

The perfect totally relevant example is the remote control. I've had a programmable remote with a one button push to turn it all on. Nobody else in the house could work it beyond that. It was recently replaced by a Cablevision remote when I swapped satellite for cable, and that one has TWO on buttons. Now nobody has a problem, but it will only control the cable box and the volume on the TV, but every button does just what it says it will.

I have a new enabled TV on the way. We'll see how easy it is to use to get youtube videos, if it even has a youtube app. It was a total afterthought to me that it was web enabled.
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post #14 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 05:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael2000 View Post

The HTPC is dead? Tell that to the ever increasing number of users over on the various HTPC forums.

Yeah this article (the Engadget one I mean) was discussed ad nauseam in the HTPC forum.
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post #15 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 07:02 AM
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I wouldn't say HTPC is dead, just a niche. There's some great hardware and software out there, but nobody is marketing it worth a crap. You still have to know something about building computers to build up a nice, functional HTPC.

-Chuck
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post #16 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mayhem13 View Post

.....But it will die a slow agonizing death if it can't be made to be an 'outta the box' solution that doesn't require constant tinkering with a solid user interface that the whole family can use without freeze-ups, reboots, and in house 'technical' assistance.
Manufacturers take heed.....you can still be the savior of this noble concept.

I was an HTPC fan and built a few machines, but to be honest with you, software companies like Cyberlink, Arcsoft for Blu-Ray playback is unbearable. Having to update the software almost everytime I load a disc in. Not to mention that I still have HD-DVD's. Regardless, as Mayhem13 mentions, too many freeze ups because of OS. People don't want to see Windows boot up, they want a solution that is reliable and the least amount of glitches and self DYI fixes (Software updates, firmware upgrades, hardware upgrades.) For a simple solution, I just started using the AC Ryan units and I would ever go back to an HTPC.

Many have mentioned about Boxee, WD, AC Ryan and more that have there own boxes and do utilize a mini board, but it's alot more reliable and simple to use with just a push of a button.

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post #17 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 09:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

My 76 year old father-in-law just asked me to build him a "PC we can hook up to the TV" so he and my mother-in-law can watch Netflix movies and tv shows, listen to their CDs and watch their DVDs by picking from covers, genres, artists (and not searching through boxes), check the weather, surf the web, Skype with his son overseas, etc.

76 years old. The HTPC is NOT dead. It's just being born.

Sounds like he wants a PS3. It does all those things except for Skype, but I feel a dedicated PC or laptop is better suited for that anyways.

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post #18 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 09:23 AM
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I'm fine with HTPC.

(As long as I don't have to use one, I hate Microsoft.)

Edit - To Micheal2000 = The reason the HTPC forums are so "busy" is people are struggling to try to get HTPCs working. The thrill of trying to get a PC to work is truely wonderful experience (for a while anyway.) And whenever they to get something going... Here come some new (Buggy) drivers.


=Brian
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post #19 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by impala454 View Post

I wouldn't say HTPC is dead, just a niche. There's some great hardware and software out there, but nobody is marketing it worth a crap. You still have to know something about building computers to build up a nice, functional HTPC.

Allow me to apologize in advance for a rather lengthy post...

Definitely niche, IMO. More and more web-connected devices like Roku, Boxee Box, BD players, PS3, Xbox360, etc are making their way into the living room, but these are not HTPCs. I believe these devices are eliminating the need for a dedicated HTPC for many people, but that doesn't mean they are dead. Autostick, Manumatic, Tiptronic and paddle shifters may be "killing" the stick shift, but there is still a large number of people who prefer a manual transmission, even if they are in the minority.

I have 2 PS3s, a web-connected LG BD player, a SA-8300HDC DVR and a MacBook Pro (that I connect to the TV only to watch ESPN3.com) and I have been considering building an HTPC, but even for someone who is good with computers/electronics, there are some barriers.
First, I am married and introducing a new device into our home setup is always met with some resistance, but she is a good sport and picks things up quickly, especially using the Harmony remote. Also, she doesn't always approve of my purchases or see why we may need another piece of tech.
Secondly, the sheer number of options out there can be daunting. Once you choose your hardware (home-built or pre-assembled), you have to decide which software is best suited for your needs. I would need to personally test all available options (after online research and reading reviews) and decide which software works best for me.
I love doing this stuff, but there is definitely a lot of work involved. I guess my main point here is that if I feel this way about HTPCs, I can imagine how the "average" consumer would feel so intimidated by it that it's a non-starter for most and will remain niche.

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post #20 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 09:52 AM
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Aren't one of the game boxes getting close to being a *full PC extension..keyboard and all with full PC net access or am I still dreaming? I don't understand why it's taken so long to fully integrate?

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post #21 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 10:30 AM
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The HTPC isn't dead, the lines are just getting blurred. The 360, boxee box, google TV etc are HTPC's - the most successful HTPC in recent memory was a modded original xbox - most of the windows based HTPC software has some legacy in Xbox Media Center.
If we are talking about the build your own computer, install and configure the software - type HTPC, I still think the area is growing.
Hooking up a computer to a modern home theater is as easy as hooking up any other component, and although the software and control configuration can be difficult depending on your needs, it is much easier to set up now than it was even a couple of years ago, and most software will work out of the box nowadays for basic functions. This is encouraging a lot of people to give it a try, maybe starting by plugging their laptop into the TV to watch netflix through WMC.
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post #22 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Netrat View Post

Aren't one of the game boxes getting close to being a *full PC extension..keyboard and all with full PC net access or am I still dreaming? I don't understand why it's taken so long to fully integrate?

You watch. In a couple years it'll be a "NEW FEATURE" of consoles to be able to allow the users to game with a mouse and keyboard.

And all the PC gamers will /facepalm
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post #23 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 05:02 PM
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Funny, I actually find all these new "connected" devices annoying. There's the TV that has 10 apps, 2 of which I want, 8 of which I could care less about. There's the AVR that has 5 apps, two of which overlap with the TV and two of which I want. Then, there's the blu-ray player with 3 apps, 1 of which I want and two of which overlap with my TV and AVR. And, as if it wasn't enough I could watch Netflix on all 3, I can watch it on my Wii too. Of course, I had to pay extra to get all these. Unfortunately though, the one new app I really want, well, I'd need to buy a new TV for that one because my TV brand doesn't have a deal with that content provider.

Do you see where I am going with this?

My HTPC on the other hand, *I* decide what apps get installed on it. If a new app or technology comes out I don't need to buy a new TV, AVR, gaming console or Blu-ray player. I can just install it. Or, stick it in a PCI-e or USB slot. Is it slow? Ok, here's wireless N dongle instead of G. Did I run out of space? Ok, here's a new HDD. Cool, HD audio bitstreaming is now supported? Ok, lemme install this new ATI HD5670 card.

For me, doing it MY way with MY stuff in the way I want is the power of the HTPC. That box with the embedded media player that connects to those 20 apps? Well, it's not going to play that ONE format you happen to have, it's not going to have those new apps you want and worst of all: you're not going to like the way those buttons look and neither is your wife (she prefers rounded blue bottons to rectangular gray ones)!


 

 

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post #24 of 36 Old 02-08-2011, 05:34 PM
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Do you see where I am going with this?

My HTPC on the other hand, *I* decide what apps get installed on it...


Exactly! I believe that as more people are introduced to the concept of a device connected to the TV giving the ability to interact with not only the TV, but with the internet and even the home, the more people will end up opting for the HTPC.

Why? Because a HTPC gives the user the most control over their environments. What we need is the people out there who design these platforms, (whether it be Windows Embedded or a full HTPC, an Android, or even *cough* a Mac mini *wheeze*) to realize the possibilities that the HTPC has as the "Connected Home" becomes more of a reality every year and really run with it!

If they don't...someone most certainly will. There are plenty of companies out there that see the future of the HTPC, giving us more options and the industry more competition.

Competition = Innovation = Cool stuff for us!

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post #25 of 36 Old 02-09-2011, 11:37 AM
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All that flexibility, of course, is a double edged-sword. You get all the rope to do with what you want or hang yourself with . Out-of-the-box functionality and ultimate flexibility are a hard marriage to make. I work on a software platform that gives the ultimate in flexibility for what you want to do. That means once you buy it, you need experts to get it all setup the way you want and it's often hard to figure out how to do that, what's the best way, etc. so the complaint is "it's difficult to use". But, they are coming to us to buy it because the retail off-the-shelf solution couldn't do what they wanted or differentiate them from their competitors.

C'est la vie

 

 

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post #26 of 36 Old 02-09-2011, 12:51 PM
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Most of the issues with current 'simplified' HTPC systems are due to arbitrary content provider restrictions rather than any real complexity. If you want basic Hulu, you pretty much have to go with a custom HTPC set-up, even though there isn't a technical reason for this to be the case, and you will usually be jumping through hoops to get it working. Netflix's approach of allowing pretty much any device capable of accessing the content access to it seems the way forward, although Netflix is often painfully slow in navigating content.
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post #27 of 36 Old 02-09-2011, 01:26 PM
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@StardogChampion You certainly have a point about the complexity of the HTPC, as did Ben in his article also. And I think that the focus on Windows Embedded may be the key in the long run by giving people the ability to chose just the right amount of technology needed to do what the user wants. The question then becomes at what point does a device hooked up to your Home Theater cease to become a HTPC and become a "Streaming media device" like the Roku, Revue, etc.? Because a device that only has Windows Media Center isn't considered a HTPC, but a device with a full version of Windows 7 Premium most likely would be considered a HTPC. (consider some of the Lenovo and Asus Atom based devices).

Somewhere in there, on both the hardware and OS level is a line that once crossed, a HTPC ceases being a HTPC...

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post #28 of 36 Old 02-09-2011, 02:31 PM
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Also, when is it a NAS and when is it a server? That line is really blurry these days with dual-core Atom NAS's that run some form of embedded Linux and have all the capabilities of a server. Whereas I'd build an HTPC for a client and use Windows 7 I am MUCH less likely to build a home server with how good today's NAS systems are that you can buy off-the-shelf. They have the horsepower, all the features and usually a way to easily add "add-ins" for other things.

What can set top box vendors using Windows Embedded learn from that? How about a Windows Embedded app store

 

 

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post #29 of 36 Old 02-09-2011, 03:58 PM
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Yeah that's a great point about the NAS side of things also. The point is, there is just too many exciting things happening on the HTPC front to say that it is even remotely close to being dead.

If you ask me, the HTPC can likely become "the" central PC of the home, performing various functions that extend past the Home Theater and throughout all of the connected home!

Pretty cool stuff!

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post #30 of 36 Old 02-10-2011, 10:43 AM
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