A crazy time for media consumers

A few upgrades to my home media ecosystem has had my head spinning of late. A faster internet connections coupled with updated hardware doesn’t sound like much but along with what’s already in place, its mind blowing.

Lets start with movies, currently anyone in the family can pick from a shit-ton of movies stored in various small DVD holders. Any one of them can be played on one of 5 computers in the house, in the family truckster and in any room that has a TV. But there’s more, more then the physical DVD’s. The family queue at Netflix either physical DVD’s or instantly, once again, they can be played in many different places. Then there’s the 3 big name movie channels we have free for 3 months for upgrading to HD cable. Each one of them has more sub channels then I had in total when I was 8.

All these ways of consuming movies was sending me into a tailspin just a few hours ago when I sat down to watch a movie, then decided to record it for later on the DVR, then reconsidered. It’s sad to think I spent 6 hours one weekend trying to figure out how to convert dvd’s to stream them to my computer/HDTV. Yes, there’s got to be an easy way, but it take time and with all the options why not just go with the one that is the easiest to manage in the long run… steaming.

The bandwidth is there and the quality is getting better. Just look at Netflix for example. Soon, in addition to watching instant movies via the blu-ray player we’ll also be able to on the Wii this Spring, and later this year, they’ll start streaming movies at 1080p. So why not just stream it when you want to. No collections to manage, planned physical media obsolescence, the eventually go out of date, just take those dvd’s for example, (KID, GET OFF MY LAWN). Yes that last comment made me look old but look how fast DVD’s when out of date. They’re not dead, but I’ve watched two so far and up-scaling SUCKS. TV shows on HD look better, even standard def looks better. So why keep investing in ‘collections’, the holders, the space, the trip to the store, etc.

The convergence is happening. The convergences of having all your entertainment points in the house connected by rj-45 cables. This is where the music portion of  this post comes in. There is overlap from the move rant, where you have Netflix on demand you have streaming Pandora on the blu-ray and the Verizon FiOS has tones of music channels to choose from, they all do. An addition to all this is Media Manager from Verizon. Once installed on your main pc, allows you to stream all your music to your stereo. I’ve been for this for along time, along with setting my DVR via my phone; check (freaking love it). The Media Manager works like iTunes where it add all your music, and pictures, videos but is then accessible through your cable box using your TV as the display. What makes this worth listening is having optical audio cable from your cable box to your stereo.  No more do you need a DAR, a digital audio receiver, or anything else. It even understands iTunes play lists.

The management, or tending to your media is still there. You have to update your queues, trim the fat on your DVD players and remember to back up your music… somewhere, but its not going to go to be unusable in the figure. Think about it, mp3′s, they’ll work for ever, not like physical media, and your streaming options, they just might need new firmware or hardware updates, no big, they take up a fixed space, not like all the cd/dvd holders laying around.

There is one catch to all this, what about roaming, or the physical media being the fabric that connects disparate hardware, because you can walk around with it? Your boat, boom-box, someone’s car? This is where your smart phone comes into place. With it you can stream or store your other media or subscriptions. The bottle necks at play here are widening, streaming is getting faster and storage capacity bigger.  Beyond this, your phone will turn into a more powerful remote for all your other virtual media collections, DVR, PC, NAS, etc, Love it!

So what’s next, Sonos? Not yet, but one thing is sure, more hardware and subscriptions purchases and less physical media stockpiling. And yes, I purposely left out audio books, that’s part 2.

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