Everywhere I look I see technology folding in on itself. What used to be a game console is now a family entertainment system. People buy PS3’s for the blue-ray player and the ability to access net-flicks. I don’t know what the actual mix is, but there are a large number of game consoles sold to people who don’t play games.
I have used both the PS3 and the X-box to watch movies and TV episodes over my home network. I have a Linux based server that sequentially builds lists of TV programs that I would normally catch with my PVR. Over the course of the week, my personal desktop downloads and decodes video content that my wife and I watch over the course of the week. What used to be my PC is now a video server.
The same PC, is my source code repository and bugzilla database for my development and runs my flight simulator when I need to practice my flying. My home firewall is a Linux computer that protects my home network and runs a session boarder controller so that I can videoconference (1080P HD) from my home to work or the rest of the world.
My home phone system is Freeswitch and it runs on another PC behind my firewall. It connects to the traditional phone network via a service provider in New York called Callcentric. I have local numbers in Oklahoma City and Ottawa so that my family no longer pays long distance charges. My phone numbers cost me obny six dollars a month each and I can call anywhere in the world for two cents a minute. I have VPN’s to my kids home networks at University and they have SIP phones connected to my Freeswitch.
I have Skype on my iPad, Android tablet, iPhone, WindowsPC, Linux PC’s and my Mac. I can call from any of those devices over the 3G, LTE or Wifi network to my HD video-conference system or my TV. My wife wanders around the house showing my Mother-in-law in Oklahoma city the latest home decorating purchases.
There is a Boxee Box on the TV stand next to my TV that allows me to connected to a large number of Internet TV channels as well as my video server. I can connect hard disks with content directly to the Boxee or watch photographs from my archive. My apple devices connect to the Boxee box via air-play.
My entire CD collection has been digitized and resides on portable HD’s as well as my media server. Christmas music can come from my iPhone directly to the Boxee box via air-play or can be pulled off the media server.
It all sounds complicated and it is.
This complexity represents an opportunity for Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. The next consoles could easily bring all of this together. Imagine an entertainment console that can make an HDVideo call to the grand kids over the internet. The console would be able to access an app-store where you can download a full-featured phone system and get service from any number of Internet phone companies. It will be a media server with optional disk arrays, it will play games and be your security system. It will be dead easy to setup and use.
It will provide parental controls, digitize your old CD’s and movies and allow you to download new content over the Internet. Don’t forget my earlier posting on API’s. The device would have a full API making it possible for third parties to create new functionality in between the time it is introduced and the years before the next version is available.
Ok, so I’m a geek. That does not mean that the general masses would not buy a device that has an Apple like user interface. So listen up console designers. The next console should:
– Play video games.
– Run a home phone system (voicemail, VoIP, message notification, …)
– Have an Internet ready video server.
– Have expandable disk space.
– Provide an API and run on a standard OS.
– Be able to digitize my existing content.
– Easily play back my home movies and photographs.
– Allow me to watch Internet TV (TED, YouTube, etc)
– Provide an Internet ready HD video conferencing system.
– Run a home security system.
It would be nice if it would support development servers like SVN and Bugzilla, etc but that would be just for the geeks like me. One should note however, that those same Geeks are the guys who will recommend your products to the less tech savvy, so keeping the geeks happy has real value.
Last but not least, this all-in-one system should leverage existing hardware in order to keep the cost within reach of the average human. The geek in me would like to see it run Linux and be build on Intel based hardware. That said, I would buy an appliance like this today if it existed.