"HTPC, XBMC, Plex, NAS, media extenders, media centers, media servers, media streamers and so on are given to technology enthusiastics, but mean very little to average consumers."
The more and more I read gadget and technology websites I start to understand what prevents media centers to become mainstream. To be fair, of course digital living room is about technology to some extent, but technology is not the key reason which prevents digital living room to become a mainstream.
First of, the competitive landscape is too fragmented for any viable standard to emerge. For example, if you think about watching traditional TV shows on TV, you do not need to worry about which codec you need to use or if your TV is powerful enough to view a specific TV program. Frankly, consumers are confused what to buy and how to use them. They are intimidated with the all the confusion around the subject, so they rather stay away from the media center market. And no wonder, we have cryptic words like HTPC, XBMC, Plex, NAS, we have media extenders, media centers, media servers, media streamers and so on that are given to technology enthusiastics, but mean very little to average consumers.
Microsoft's "I am a PC and I am 4 1/2 years old" video advertisement has become a huge hit around the internet and it is an excellent demonstration what kind of messages technology companies should be sending to markets. Too many companies are focusing on providing better hardware and more shinier software, but at the end of the day mainstream does not care about that. In order to cross the chasm between technology enthusiasts and mainstream markets they need to demonstrate what is it for the end users and how easily they can do what ever they are interested to do with their computer in the living room.
Most likely media centers are not going to become mainstream in the next 5 years or so. They will remain a niche segment, but a viable one, as there are enough early adopters and developers to keep pushing open source projects to improve media centers and other software around the topic. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Dell continue experimenting with various products to test which gets people excited, but they do not use too big budgets on R and D as they know that there are not enough consumers in the media center pc and mac markets.