Tech in the Living Room

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Renee Montagne hears how electronics and computer companies are jockeying for space in your living room. Ted Schadler is vice-president of the technology and market research firm Forrester Research. He says big companies are striving to be the sole source of digital services in the home. They're trying to combine TV, Internet, movie, music and information delivery into one package.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Microsoft is just one company that's trying to redefine your living room. To talk about what other companies are doing, we turn to Ted Schadler. He's vice president of Forrester Research, which is a technology and market research company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Hello.

Mr. TED SCHADLER (Vice President, Forrester Research): Hello.

MONTAGNE: How about starting by giving us some examples of what companies are doing to get into this space.

Mr. SCHADLER: Well, you know, the living room is just a hot place to be. Comcast and Time Warner Cable, for example, are there. But you have people like Yahoo! and TiVo doing deals to try to get Yahoo's music and other information right there on your TiVo box. We've got companies like Hewlett-Packard and Intel trying to get PCs that slide right underneath the television. We also have telephone companies--Verizon, for example, and SBC. And they're bringing their product right into the living room as well. So it's a pretty crowded place right now.

MONTAGNE: The promise of a system that would connect all the devices in your living room--I mean, your TV, your DVD stereo--it's been out there for years, but it hasn't happened. Why?

Mr. SCHADLER: Mostly because that's not how consumers buy. They buy just the thing they want on the day they go shopping. So they'll buy a television today and a stereo tomorrow and maybe a new DVD player next month or next year. And the problem is these things don't fit together. So it's very difficult to get this stuff to work.

MONTAGNE: Most people's living rooms do center around the television, but Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, they've been trying to make the PC the dominant device.

Mr. SCHADLER: For the PC to be interesting in the living room, it would have to do something completely different, something you couldn't get from your cable company or your satellite company or home stereo, and that's just not the way it is today. You can get virtually everything you need from those other companies.

MONTAGNE: Is there some little corner that has to be turned?

Mr. SCHADLER: Well, there is, actually. The Internet is a place where a lot of people are spending their time. And on the Internet there's video. So you can imagine that a single box, a television box with a PC under it maybe, could bring together your television content, your video on demand so you can click and watch a movie, and maybe Internet video as well. If that were to happen, then the PC could find a place right there in the living room.

MONTAGNE: Right, which would solve the problem that I think we all know about, which is, you know, why do I have five remotes on my table, of which I actually only know how two work?

Mr. SCHADLER: You know, there are some companies that are building what they call universal remote controls. The problem is they're not really universal and they're very hard to use. If you have an engineer in the family, maybe you'll only have one remote universal control. For the rest of us, well, we just have to live with the five we've got.

MONTAGNE: Ted Schadler is vice president of Forrester Research, which is a technology and market research company. He spoke to us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks very much.

Mr. SCHADLER: Oh, you're very welcome.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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