The coolest living room in Silicon Valley, if not the world, is located in an unremarkable building bearing a temporary banner embroidered with the still-fresh logo of NXP Semiconductors. There, on its San Jose campus, the former Philips Semiconductors unit has established its Connected Living Showcase. The company has packed the room with prototype reference platforms and soon-to-be-in-production devices (as well as at least one that has been on the market for a year) that emphasize the connected, digital lifestyle we've all been hearing so much about for several years.
The Connected Living Showcase includes a huge, high-definition LCD TV, Internet Protocol TV set-top boxes, digital media adapters and a wireless server/client high-end music system (all based on NXP chips, of course). Everything is wirelessly synched. A remote control and a very intuitive and sophisticated electronic programming guide (EPG) make everything available at the touch of a button--every digital photo, movie, television show and song stored on any device in the room.
And that's just the beginning. Don't want little Johnny to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship bout you recorded last week? No problem--the EPG locks him out with a few clicks. Want to watch a movie you don't own? One button, and you're linked up with Amazon.com or another site that enables you to purchase it instantly. Bounced from the living room because your spouse wants to watch Desperate Housewives? Waltz a few feet over to the den and enjoy the same content available in the living room on your den's legacy TV, thanks to a digital media adapter.
Creating the showcase was a stroke of genius on the part of NXP executives, who say it's become a popular destination for salespeople looking to close deals with prospective customers. You could spend months reading white papers, attending conferences and perusing product brochures, and not learn as much about the digital living room as you do in five minutes at NXP. The demo room really hammers home the point that all the cool technology we've been hearing about is finally real. Suddenly, you understand what the fuss is about.
Except that it's not really real. This is still the campus of a chip company, after all. Walk out the door, and you are in cubicle land.
Mark Samuel, general manager of telco and operator set-top boxes at NXP, said OEM customers tell him every device in the Connected Living Showcase could hit the market next year. But for most people, price and ease-of-use barriers will keep this ideal out of reach for years.
Samuel acknowledges that while the room represents "the complete pie," what people can buy is "a slice." In other words, most consumers will have to build their digital living rooms one piece at a time.
And so, in a sense, the digital living room remains where it's always been: in the future. Today it seems a little closer than before. Tantalizingly so. But it will be five years or more before most of us have a setup approaching NXP's.
Rest assured that by then, NXP and its rivals will have us wanting something else.