Sony recently announced its new VAIO XL1 Digital Living System along with its supposed vision for a CE future with Microsoft. Hah? I thought that I was transported to an alternate universe when I read the press release. Sony’s entrant into the digital living room category supposedly "breaks all boundaries" by managing both personal and downloaded multimedia content as well as pre-packaged audio CDs and DVD movies. There are two components that comprise Sony’s Digital Living System: a high-end multimedia PC and a 200-disc media changer/recorder. According to Sony, both are designed to fit into a home entertainment rack and complement the rest of your home entertainment system. The PC connects to a television via an HDMI, which is designed to output high-definition video and multi-channel digital audio in a single connection (in real life). It sounds so rosy. Hmm. While I agree that the living room needs is an A/V Media Server, unfortunately, Sony's Digital Living System isn't it.
I say that because it isn't it because it doesn’t support high-definition TV or any incoming HD-level signals in any way. I am scratching my head -- why. Yes, it does have HDMI output that can send digital images and sound to an HD display device. Unfortunately, it has no HD tuning capability NOR does it have either component video or HDMI inputs to even pass the signal. It only accepts composite video or S-Video. What's wrong with this picture? Is it only me? What century is Sony's computer group living in? Why doesn't it support HD? Are they delusional? On top of that, Sony and Microsoft are friends? I don't think so?
They are arch enemies in the real CE world. Clearly, Sony's computer division doesn't speak to its consumer electronics arm. If it did, it would know that Sony and Microsoft have completely different visions for the Living Room of the future. Let's start with Microsoft being PC-centric, and Sony being TV-centric. Sony is a Blu-ray disc developer and Microsoft is an HD DVD supporter. Sony has its PSP game console, and Microsoft has its Xbox gaming family. Maybe Sony's computer division doesn’t' report to Howard Stringer. If they did, they would know that the VAIO's XL1 Digital Living System is incompatible with Sony's true HD future with Blu-ray and SXRD HD televisions. So, is this an identity crisis or what? This is a product with no useful purpose that isn't even HD-compatible. So, I say back to the drawing board. If it wasn't HD from the get-go, then why bother?
And, it makes you wonder and possibly suspicious as to what Microsoft is up to trying to be friends with Sony? Are they trying to make an end-run for the living room by coaxing Sony's computer division to place a Windows Media PC in the living room going against Sony consumer electronics group? Hmm. It's certainly a possibly. According to Microsoft, the 2006 version of the Windows Media PC will support HD via the use of a Media Room extender tied to Xbox360 along with HD DVD. It's very convoluted, and is getting murkier and murkier. And, under this scenario, it wouldn't be compatible with Sony's VAIO XL1 Digital Living System anyway as you can't pass high-def signals via composite or S-Video anyway. So, it leaves this expensive product as "dead in the water." So, I ask again, "Why bother?" Is this convergence or simply divergence?