Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Year, Another Revolution... that fizzled

Retail home networking is price sensitive, but professionally installed home networking is not nearly so price sensitive. I see HDMI 4X4 matrixes selling on-line for $1,000. They have very little inside and do very little. With FireWire’s capabilities, a home network could transport five different streams of high-def video (with Dolby audio) to five HDTVs across one single Coax or CAT5 cable, moving video in both directions and be controlled by a graphical user interface sending control signals across the same wire.

I should repeat that again slowly because that is a lot to take in. Imagine five different devices, such as an HD Cable Box, a Blu-Ray player, a Digital Video Recorder (a TiVO like device), a central media controller with on-line access to Netflix, and a computer connected to the internet with family photos and home movies on it. That is five different video sources at a minimum. If the HD Cable Box had two tuners in it, then it would be able to provide two different HD channels at the same time…making it essentially two video sources. If it also had a PVR inside, that could provide an additional option for video content. Now imagine sitting in front of an HDTV in your living room, hitting a button on a simple remote control (power, menu, up arrow, down arrow, select). Select “menu” and a menu comes up showing all the video sources connected to the network. Select one, HD cable box (for example) and you can pull up a new menu to show you a full program guide or you can select the PVR and see everything that has been recorded on the PVR. Hit “menu” again and you can see what DVD is in the Blu-Ray player or what videos have been stored on the Digital Video Recorder and select anything you want to watch. All this with a five button remote. You have access to all the content in your home available to any TV in the living room, kitchen, bedroom, media room, pool, garage, or any place you care to run a cable. Not just one TV, but five TVs can play any video stream they want at the same time.

At a $1,200 - $2,000 price point ($1,000 for the full function media server with a $200 access box at each TV), a feature rich network like this would sell well in retail and would revolutionize the professional installer industry.

Why have we not seen this, because a device like this was developed and withered due to lack of interest? It fizzled for four reasons. Reason number four was the current economic downturn that dried up investment dollars and made companies reluctant to branch out in bold new directions. The other three reasons will be covered in my next installment.


  1. Maybe I misunderstand, but this would involve transporting the compressed streams over Firewire (requiring the TV to have the proper decoding hardware), not the uncompressed audio and video data transported over HDMI?

  2. Right. Compressed video is what comes into the HD Cable Box. It is uncompressed before it is sent over HDMI. If it is sent over the 1394 port, then it stays compressed until it gets to the TV. All HDTVs must have a tuner and therefore a decoder, so the decoding is done in the TV. Thanks for the comment...and feel free to catch me when I am too loose with the facts. I do not know everything.