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HDTV's killer ap

Bill Gates recently threw a Hollywood party where he touted his company's latest version of the Windows Media Center — the convergence of TV and PC.

Yeah, right. The company's first attempt at a PC-based entertainment system garnered fewer than 500,000 viewers.

How much do you want to bet that while he may talk a good game, Mr. Gates doesn't watch entertainment TV on a small PC screen while sitting at a desk?

Today's PC industry still thinks that people, especially those who work in front of a PC all day, are going to go home and sit in front of ANOTHER PC to watch TV. How many times have the experts told them that's not going to happen?

Okay, so maybe I'm not an expert, but I am a TV viewer and I do sit in front a PC all day. Want to know how I watch TV? In one of two ways: Either by listening to a 13in model sitting far away on the kitchen counter while I do other things (in which case I would argue I'm not watching TV at all) or by sitting in my comfortable recliner directly in front of a 57in HDTV with a snack and drink. Now, that's how you watch TV.

Continuing to stoke the PC fire, graphics card company ATI just released its new HDTV PCI receiver card. Some in the media have called the HDTV-on-a-PC approach “HD's killer ap.” The PC tuner card comes complete with a “DTV antenna” (as opposed to an analog TV antenna?). The card claims to receive HD signals and display them along with stereo audio on your favorite PC.

One Associated Press technical writer reviewing the product, was really impressed, saying, “On my standard television, I never noticed the cloud of dust that's kicked up when a receiver catches a football on artificial turf. Or the beads of sweat on a forehead. Or scratches on a helmet. [With HD] It's all there.”

The writer also discovered that watching TV on a PC doesn't have all those “hisses and hum so common to standard TV.”

What? If this guy is hearing “hisses and hum” on his TV set, it must be an old RCA CT100. (For you younger readers, that was RCA's first color TV set, released in 1954. It contained about 25 tubes.)

The writer did find a few faults with the PC solution. “Oddly, the remote control doesn't have an obvious way of turning on the DTV program. It is possible, however, to program a button to do the job.”

I guess he's saying it doesn't have an on/off switch. It's probably behind an icon marked “Start.”

One other apparent shortcoming for this so-called “HD killer ap” is that the tuner card won't accept cable or satellite signals.

The writer concludes saying, “Though the included software falls short, the entire package shows there may be a bright, clear future for the entertainment PC. Just this week, Microsoft announced that its Windows Media Center 2005 software will support HDTV. It might just have the resources to do the software right.”

Wanna bet?

I don't think broadcasters need fear that their audiences are going to rush to the PC screen to catch the 11 p.m. news.

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