Media Center PCs are designed to replace a stack of A/V components, letting you watch live or recorded TV shows, play or burn DVDs, download movies and music, and play home videos and photo slideshows. Available in various hardware configurations from several computer manufacturers, these remote-controllable systems share the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 operating system.
Let's get one thing out of the way right up front: JVC's CU-VH1 is a niche product aimed at professionals and hard-core video enthusiasts who live and breathe state-of-the-art technology - in this case, high-definition video recording.
Media receivers bridge the gap between computer and home theater by letting you store your audio and video files in one room while you select and play them on an entertainment system in another room. The first digital media receivers were limited to streaming music stored on a PC over a wired network to your stereo.
When digital still cameras were new and no match for conventional film photography, a typical TV had little trouble doubling as a "slide" projector. But analog TVs can't do justice to images produced by today's multimegapixel cameras.
Every night has come down to an impossible choice. Do I revel in the convenience of my video hard-disk recorder (HDR) or exalt in the splendor of high-definition TV? Why can't a set-top box enable me to pause a premium HDTV movie as readily as an ad-glutted network newscast?
The mutual embrace of A/V and PC got considerably tighter at this year's CES, most visibly with the proliferation of devices that let you experience all kinds of music and video entertainment on your TV and stereo. And almost every one of these products could connect to some kind of wired or wireless network - yet another sign of how deeply the PC mindset has taken hold in the home.
Napster is dead. Long live Napster 2.0. Out of the battle between the recording industry and the illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing services has emerged a new generation of legal online services that's rapidly changing the way people buy music.