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Media Management, Part 2: Audio/Video Solutions for the Home

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This article concludes David Gulbransen's two-part series on the convergence of computer networking and media technologies. Part 1 discussed some of the current media management technologies for corporate and educational applications. This article looks at the scaled-down versions of these technologies emerging for home entertainment.

Media Management for the Home

Do you love music? Do you love movies? Are you a photo nut, snapping away at every gathering of family or friends? If so, computing technology has come a long way in providing you with numerous ways to spend your time and your money.

Not long ago, portable music was pretty rare, but transistor radios changed all that. The Walkman ushered in another era of unprecedented portability that continues today, with products like the iPod and other MP3 players. The overwhelming popularity of these products speaks of the American consumer: We want what we want when we want it.

The rise in popularity of the Internet and compressed audio and video formats has brought us to the point where music and video anywhere, anytime is nearly a reality. But there are a few drawbacks. The biggest obstacle is simply keeping track of all that media and getting it where we want it. Because so much of our world is now based around the home computer and the Internet, more and more of the music and movies we love find a home on our hard drives.

Having these files on the PC isn't too much of a problem for the portable player. We can connect the Rio, iPod, Argus, or whatever to the PC; download the songs we want to listen to or the videos we want to watch; and be on our merry way. Sure, it's a bit of a hassle, but not more than most consumers are willing to bear. But what about that same level of portability within our homes? That possibility has remained more elusive—until now.

Portable audio and video have been options for years. But what has eluded us has been getting that music, video, or photo from the PC—which typically sits in an office, den, or family room—to the stereo or TV in the living room, family room, or bedroom. Sure, many people have hooked up their PCs to their home entertainment centers, running the necessary cables back and forth. But just as many consumers have looked at the problem, shrugged, and not bothered.

Now, literally dozens of products are coming on the market that take advantage of the prevalence of wireless networking in the home and PCs, allowing you to use the airwaves to get your MP3s to the stereo and your movies to the 32-inch TV in the bedroom.

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