Television-computer convergence

Paul Boutin wrote in Slate Magazine, The Myth of the Living-Room PC, "the one thing I wanted to see hard data on was conspicuously absent from Jobs' keynote. It's been nearly a year since Apple added downloadable videos and a couch-surfing remote to its lineup." And, "Seven months after Viiv's launch, it seems what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas: Dell's big rollout never happened, and the rumor that Apple was launching a 50-inch plasma-screen Viiv turned out to be pure baloney."

I think the source of Boutin's disappointment is his expectation that the "Living-Room PC" will arrive as a computer that can do television. The consumer electronics companies see it differently - the computer as just one more component of a television. Boutin's anticipated convergence arrived years ago, and few people noticed.

Of course we all know that DVR's are really computers, but I was surprised when I opened a new Sony WEGA HDTV television box and out fell a GPL for Linux. And while I can get the source code from Sony's web site, there is apparently no way without a screwdriver and more courage than I possess to alter the TV software.

That's fine with me because all I really want to do with my television is watch television. On, off, channel, volume. Sony gets it. Those of us in the computer business sometimes expect our customers to be far more interested in computers than they really are. Sure, many of them are experts in various computing fields and could do a lot, so it's great to have all the dials and knobs they can turn if needed. But when they're instead focused on banking, medical research, or retail logistics, they shouldn't have to worry about computers - no more than I have to configure my GRUB parameters to watch TV.

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I am a software engineer in San Diego, president of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (spec.org), formerly a mathematician and a violist.

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