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Best Bits: The Re-Emergence of Convergence, Part 3

There is a lot of competition to build the "convergent PC" that will be the hub of your media center -- but be careful not to get caught in the middle.

If you haven’t been following along with the bouncing convergent ball, it might prove helpful to check Part 1 and Part 2 of this extended rant. The short version is that after failing to fulfill a promise to bring the universe together under the umbrella of a PC over a decade ago, many of those very same corporate failures of yesteryear are re-grouping to inflict damage on you again. This time, they have a three-pronged plan that includes a poorly conceived concept, an overly judgmental operating system, and a confusion of hardware that will bring you to your knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

In This Corner, ViiV
Intel’s ViiV (supposedly, it rhymes with “buried alive”), is a hardware specification. That’s why, according to Don MacDonald, VP of Intel's Digital Home Group, Intel has written over a million lines of code. It requires you to have Windows Media Center Edition (forget about Linux) with all of its third-party hardware requirements, and a full of stable of Intel hardware inside.

You may be thinking, “Okay, I’ll just buy me some ViiV certified parts and slap them together into a rip-roaring convergent system.” Technically, that is a possibility. Although you’re not supposed to be able to do so, you can buy copies of Windows MCE and there are already “ViiV certified” peripherals floating around. There are also a couple of small hitches.

Standards Incompatibility
Some of us who were around during the birth of USB were left with wonderfully non-functional ports on our computers. Why? Because not all vendors who implemented the USB specification did so in a way that Windows found pleasing. Why? Because Microsoft has this odd habit of changing things near to the last minute of production and motherboard manufactures (and chipset makers) who didn’t wait for the clock to strike “finished” were left high and dry — as were we who bought those systems.

Nothing should make that clearer than Sony’s current debacle with the Blu-ray DVD drives on the next generation Play Stations. “What next generation Play Stations,” you might ask? Well, you’re correct. There aren’t any because there’s a big ta-do about how digital rights management will be implemented under Blu-ray. How do you account for that unless you wait until after the issues are settled?

And remember when I said you could buy a copy of Windows MCE? That’s true, but unless you’re a system integrator, you can’t install it legitimately — at least not enough so to be able to call you DIY system legit. A real ViiV system is one that’s been created and configured by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and you keep your hands off, thank you very much.

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