So who owns my living room? I have projectors, displays, satellite tuning boxes, various amplifiers, CD players, DVD players, remotes, universal remotes, a home PBX trying to do VoIP to the office, a plasma display, a home security systems, 802.11, a Sony Airboard, 100MB fiber Internet acccess, a few PC's and Mac's, a cars with a car navigation system that rips CD's and talks to the Internet, a car with GSM built in that doesn't work in Japan... None of this stuff talks to each other. In my basement I have boxes full of firewire, ethernet, power, coaxial, optical fiber, RCA Audio/Video, SCSI, RS-232C cables.

So, it looks like Apple is making a lunge to connect things together with Rendezvous. Stuart Cheshire, Wizard Without Portfolio at Apple Computer & Chairman of IETF ZEROCONF was interviewed by The Idea Basket (found this on Frank's Blog.) In the interview Stuart talks about how although the IETF didn't like the idea of trying to make AppleTalk an IETF standard, they liked the idea of trying to make it easier to connect things to your home network. He set up a working group at IETF to do this.

From the ZeroConf page:

To achieve this small-network functionality in IP, there are four main areas of work:

Allocate addresses without a DHCP server.
Translate between names and IP addresses without a DNS server.
Find services, like printers, without a directory server.
Allocate IP Multicast addresses without a MADCAP server.


From the interview:

I can't comment on specific Apple product plans, but I think you had some very interesting ideas in your "Backstage Pass to the Future" article. Rendezvous is not just about making current networked devices easier to use. It is also about making it viable to put networking (i.e. Ethernet) on devices that today use USB or Firewire, and it is also about making it viable to use networking in areas that you wouldn't have even considered before Rendezvous. Imagine a future world where you connect your television and amplifier and DVD player with just a couple of Ethernet cables, instead of today's spaghetti mess of composite video, S-Video, component video, stereo audio, 5.1 Dolby, Toslink optical audio cables, etc.


So Apple will become a consumer electronics maker and will try to solicit the support of IETF to help get things hooked up. OK. One world view. Too bad TiVo isn't on the ZeroConf mailing list. TiVo is such a great product, but it really doesn't "hook up" with stuff well...

I guess the home server, home router universe is also trying to do this, but maybe less elegantly. Moxi sounded initially like an allstar cast trying to get into this super-set-top-box space, but it looks like it blew up and was picked up for scraps by Paul Allen.

Microsoft is obviously trying to go there too, but not so successfully so far.

Sony is an obvious leader, but it appears that they can't coordinate their architecture and although they take risks and make cool gadgets, they can't seem to orchestrate it all. I heard that they even shut down their design group recently. Having said that, the playstation is a great contender for king of the living room.

Anyway, while we're at it, lets get our phone and IM hooked up in the living room as well. Maybe it's just that IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) was last week, but with the VoIP (Voice over IP) IETF standard SIP and the IM standard Jabber, it feels like IETF is on top of most of the important things to enable my dream living room. Could it be that Internet standards will lead the way?

I feel great things happening in this area and the rumble of architecture shifts that can make possible things that have been impossible in the past. Definitely going to steer towards the rumbling to see if there are some opportunities in the space Japan still is competitive in. So my bet is that Apple creates some cool products that prove it can be done and that Taiwan Inc. and China quickly jump in and take over... Hopefully there is some room for us to do something cool.

5 Comments

Thanks for the credit!

I'm curious as to why you feel that "the playstation is a great contender for king of the living room." Are you referring to the PS2's installed base, or is your comment more of a technical one?

I think it is probably the most powerful computing device that has really penetrated the living room... so I guess I was referring to installed base. I agree that maybe it's a "so what"... ;-)

One Appliance to Rule them All
And in the Living Room Bind Them?

At my house the PlayStation2 is definitely the center of the living room. For people who just have a TV and a device, without the stereo/mp3/tivo add-ons, the PlayStation2 is an immediate and comprehensive upgrade - DVD player, console. But Sony must move to take advantage of that; their current plans for the PlayStation 3 emphasize raw computing power, without much early word for integration with these other appliances and functions you mentioned Joi. Of course if they've got a ton of power, that's great; maybe I can multitask video/games/recording/chat. Marc Andresson has a funny quote in there about single vs. multiple appliances:

"I think it's much more likely that we'll see a proliferation of devices for consumers," says Marc Andreessen, chairman and cofounder of Loudcloud. "Just look at the evolution of the kitchen. If everything converged into one appliance, we'd have a machine that did everything in the kitchen, instead of separate dishwashers and stoves and refrigerators."

All Your Consumer Appliance Are Belong To Us

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Interestingly, between my kids and me, we now have a GameCube (theirs), PS2 (theirs), and Xbox (mine). After being somewhat skeptical at first, they're now converted Xbox fans. At Blockbuster, they gravitate to the Xbox section first... and only then check the GameCube and PS2 sections.

I don't think this was meant to be a game machine topic, but I look at the the Sony and Microsoft paths and think Microsoft chose right. They can use quasi-off-the-shelf hardware and completely leverage the R&D of Intel and Nvidia. They also had the foresight (and timing) to put a hard drive and RJ-45 jack in their box. From a technical standpoint, I can much more easily envision the Xbox becoming a "center of the living room" than I can the PS2, though certainly Sony's installed base gives them a leg up.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft really moves forward with their "Freon" project, which would be a souped-up Xbox with video recording. It could be very cool, but could dilute their status as a pure gaming box. Sony faces the same dilemma in trying to make the PS2 a digital entertainment hub.

I was just talking to Leonard Liu about this and he suggested that if Apple and Sony merged, they would probably own our living rooms. Interesting idea...

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