Plugged In: Your Next PC May Sit in the Living Room

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by medea, Mar 9, 2003.

  1. medea macrumors 68030


    Aug 4, 2002
    Madison, Wi
    (Reuters) - Taking a page from Apple Computer's AAPL.O iMac handbook, Taiwan computer manufacturer Shuttle Computer 2405.TW is hoping to turn PCs into a living-room accessory with a sleek design and a new coat of paint.
    "When we first tried it, specks of dirt would get in the paint, bubbles would form, and paint would pool around the vents," said Ken Huang, Shuttle's head of systems development.
    Shuttle's idea is just one example of the efforts Taiwan's PC manufacturers are making to get consumers to buy another computer and help lift the industry out of its doldrums.
    PC makers could once count on users regularly upgrading their systems to cope with the ever-increasing power demands of the latest computer game or financial program.
    Not anymore. Computers purchased a year or two ago are likely to have more than enough muscle to satisfy the average PC user because computer capabilities are more defined by the speed of a user's Internet connections rather than the speed of the computer's microprocessor. So instead of trying to get consumers to upgrade, the idea is to sell them a less-powerful second PC for use as a home entertainment center to surf the Internet, look at photographs, play music or watch movies.
    "There is a clear consensus in the industry that the PC must change, but there is a lot less agreement on exactly what it must change to," said Richard Brown, associate vice president of marketing at Taiwan chip designer VIA Technologies 2388.TW .
    "Our own view is that while there will always be a market for high-performance PCs, particularly for gaming and financial applications, the growth will be in smaller, more application-specific machines for home entertainment and productivity purposes, etc," he said.
    In the 1990s, Apple Computer struck a chord with consumers when it introduced iMac, a Macintosh computer with candy-colored casing that reversed its declining fortunes. Now PC makers are looking to do something similar.
    Via is circulating a variety of ideas for a "concept computer" that has yet to be produced. Via is known for low-cost microchips used in a PC that runs without the standard Microsoft software and Intel chips. The PC costs about $200 at retailers such as Wal-Mart.
    The sleek silver design of the Via prototype gives the computers the look of consumer electronics like compact-disc and digital video disk players.
    At less than half the size of a traditional PC, it uses a TV as its monitor, and the exterior reveals no disc drives or buttons in front, just a square blue digital screen to show information like CD tracks currently playing.
    The entire face slides up to reveal the DVD drive, and it plays discs, instantly without the slow initial start-up of a computer. Like any good consumer electronics gadget, it has a remote control.
    And, you can also use it as a fully functional PC running Microsoft MSFT.O Windows.
    Shuttle, which makes "bare-bones" computers for do-it-yourselfers that include only power supply, motherboard and external case, has since moved forward from its initial glitches.
    Sales of its "XPCs" -- sleek aluminum units about the size of a large shoebox -- helped lift Shuttle out of the red and won rave reviews from techie Web sites around the world, but only after heavy debate in the company over the high-profit, low-volume strategy.
    "My competitors can make maybe 40 units in the time it takes for me to make 20," Huang said. "We were taking big risks."
    Among Huang's next ideas: leopard and zebra-print cases.
    Tech firms are approaching the living-room PC idea from many angles, however. Microsoft's MSFT.O "Mira" project, for example, uses a detachable monitor.
    Leave your high-powered PC in the study, pick up a detachable screen and walk around the house using a stylus instead of a mouse. The screen stays connected to the rest of the system via radio waves through a "Wi-Fi" wireless connection.
    Hewlett-Packard HPQ.N , TiVo Inc. TIVO.O and SonicBlue Inc. SBLU.O have already launched or plan to release digital video recorders that store photos as well as music, giving them PC-like capabilities.
    "I think this year we will see a lot of concept, but less product," said Charles Smulders, an analyst and vice president for computer hardware platforms at technology market research firm Gartner Dataquest.
    "It may be 2004 before we see true experimentation. The PC platform has plenty of support and has so far seen off all contenders," he said.
  2. iJon macrumors 604


    Feb 7, 2002
    the shuttles are awesome and have better advantages over the cube. if i didnt have so much stuff in my pc i would consider one.

  3. alex_ant macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2002
    All up in your bidness
    Gateway tried this in the mid-'90s with a "shelf computer" bundled with a 32" TV/monitor. It was a massive flop. Could have been just the price, although my instinct is that nobody wants to type e-mail using a cordless keyboard on their lap and control the mouse pointer with a wireless trackball.
  4. Einherjar macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2003
    Great machine.

    I'm a third-year repair tech and I think this was the most fun machine to build or work with..

    (sorry, I had a great review with my specs in and everything but Windows farked up...)

    The short version:

    AMD XP 2000+
    2x 256 PC-3200 Ultra Geil Tech DDR (for Dual-Channel)
    30 gig 7200 RPM ATA/133 Maxtor HD
    40x16x48x CyberDrive CD/CW

    $700 even on NewEgg with shipping and extended processor warranty. Can't beat that with a stick. Great for games, and great for expansion.
  5. iJon macrumors 604


    Feb 7, 2002
    they are getting there with these shuttles though. teamed up with windows xp media edition and the new alienware navigator are a good example. although i could easily do this with a laptop and a keyspan remote. os x is already a media os, microsoft had to make a seperate one that you cannot buy.


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