Apple Archive

Digital Hub or Entertainment Center?

- 2002.01.25

Apple has some really amazing things available right now: AirPort, the iPod, Mac OS X, the iBook - even the G4 running at "only" 867 MHz. Each of these will contribute to the computing experience of the future.

Microsoft wants to see the PC as the center of digital entertainment. Apple wants the Mac to be the ultimate digital hub.

Who has the right vision?

They're both right.

Think about the iPod. Sure, 1,000 songs in your pocket. It's also "all of your documents in your pocket." Imagine your G4 or iMac at home, you connect your iPod, copy over your documents, and then bring it to work or school. At school you can simply connect the iPod to a computer, then open and print your documents. At work you can open a document, work on it, and then bring it home and work on it some more. You can, of course, do pretty much the same with your music.

Nowadays if you want to network all of your PCs together in a house, you have to have wires running through the walls and out from the back of the computer. But with Macs you don't. You can have a single base station and have all of your computers on the Internet with an AirPort card in each. That means you can bring your iBook or G4 PowerBook out to the swimming pool and browse the Net as you're deciding whether you want to go swimming or not.

Microsoft wants you to use your PC as a digital entertainment center. This is an excellent concept as well, as that it what many people - even Mac users - use their computers for. Microsoft ships Windows Media Player to help it attain this goal. Much like iTunes, it provides a way to play and sort your music. It also provides visualizations and links to music and movie trailers on the Internet. (These have all been done before, however. Sorry, Microsoft.)

Windows XP is even more document-centric than Windows 98, based around "what would you like to create" instead of "what program do you want to open." The Mac, on the other hand, has always been more application oriented, making you open an application to create a document (which Windows also lets you do).

The first icon on the Mac desktop has always been the startup disk, usually the hard disk. On a PC (since Windows 95), the "Computer" (which was a listing of drives and control panels) is the first icon on the desktop. (Which, in my opinion, doesn't make sense. Doesn't the computer contain the desktop? The desktop should not contain the computer.)

What do I believe the computer will become in the future? I believe it will be both a digital hub and a center of entertainment.

In the future, all midrange to high-end computers will come with built-in radio tuners and TV cards. You will be able to easily connect high quality speakers to your computer via RCA jacks. You will be able to access hundreds of thousands of Internet radio stations, as well as your local AM, FM, and LW (in Europe) radio stations. Short wave will also be able available.

With the TV card, you will have access to a multitude of channels through your cable connection. You will have access to "TV Guide" services over the Internet and be able to download a particular show for later viewing. (While there are devices that do this now, I believe they will become obsolete and the computer will take over the job). You will be able to "preview" a channel in a window onscreen (yes, full screen will be available if you really want to watch the channel on your computer), and you will be able to "send" it to your large screen projection or LCD television while still having full ability to use your computer (in other words, it will not be simple video mirroring). Perhaps some newer form of AirPort-type technology will be used for this.

Speaking of AirPort, it, or something like it, will be standard on all machines. FireWire, USB, and possibly something even faster than FireWire will be included. Something like the iPod will be available, a pocket hard drive and music player (and by then a small game machine and contact manager) which will allow you to easily transfer documents from one computer to another or work on something in a remote location. DVD, DVD-R, CD, CD-R/RW, and a higher capacity DVD-type disc will also be able to be created. RAM will be easily expanded to more than 5 GB, and a new type of slot will be included which will run faster and be able to deliver more than PCI can. PCI slots would still be kept for compatibility, however.

In the future, the computer will be more than a television, a radio, or a game console. It will also allow you to connect a plethora of peripherals to import movies, pictures, music, and data from your PDA, just like you can do now. It will do everything you could possibly think of, all in one box.

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