Thin Media Clients and Home Servers

Ravi posted an article on on the topic of “thin media clients vs. thick media clients“. He’s got the right general idea but fails to talk about the other end of the equation: The thing that is providing the content to these clients. The server.

He says

thin client is used to gain access to content locked away on your computers or even the Internet via the home network.

First, I want to mention a new development in these “thin clients“. Today’s “Digital Media Receivers“ (DMR, which is the industy term for this class of device) typically have relatively hefty processors and software sets on them. For example the HP DMR displays it’s UI on the the TV. It has roughly the equivalent of WMP or WinAmp on it to do this. The new development I’m talking about is making these “DMRs“ even “thinner“ and “dumber“ by removing ALL application code form the client and having that code run on the “home server“…the UI is remoted to the device via a UI remoting technology. The first (and most important IMHO) example of this are the new Windows Media Center Extenders that will be shipping later this year (and were demonstrated at CES in January). These devices use a version of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) that incorporates audio and video streaming. The UI you see is the great Windows Media Center UI.

The beauty of this approach is that over time the cost of these devices will come down even further because the amount of silicon needed to support them is greatly reduced. The core code can even be added to an existing device like the XBox (there will be a Media Extender kit for XBox…see this link). And users get a more consistent user experience.

Now back to my original point: What will serve up the content that these devices utilize? PCs! In the short term these will mostly be desktop PCs (even if they are in a quiet case and made to look like a stereo component). But in the long term we’ll see other form factors that are more dedicated to the task. Because they are PC’s (running Windows of course) they will be able to host all sorts of cool application (for exmaple the Premise Home Control software I love to rant and rave about). These things already exist, but only in niches and small quantities. But soon, I predict, the “home server” will become a hot topic…

© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.


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