The Computer Blog

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Ballmer, Schmallmer!

About ten days ago, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said, when speaking about the digital home: “There is no way you can get there with Apple. The critical mass has to come from the PC or a next generation video device”.

I learned a long time ago that when someone totally discounted someone else, it was because they considered the other a threat. Ballmer’s worried. And he has reason to be.

One financial analyst publicly predicted last week that Apple might well move into two digit market share in the next year. And it is because of Apple’s inroads into the home…the digital home…that this has a chance of happening. I said in an editorial within the last year I believed Microsoft has seen it’s best days, and I stand by that estimation.

Microsoft’s big push is the Windows XP Media Center, another approach to “convergence”, the merging of the PC with multimedia entertainment equipment. I was one of its early adopters. When I was single and living in an apartment, I did not own a TV or a stereo, per se. I did have two PC’s, each equipped with TV cards, stereo sound cards and speaker systems, and DVD burners or players. I could watch TV or movies complete with stereo sound at either one. And when I needed the PC for more routine “PC-related” tasks, I could still watch TV by shrinking down the picture from full screen to a window of my own sizing. I really enjoyed having that capability; and when I see some of the 30 inch LCD screens on the market now, there are times I feel like it’d be neat to go back to that. But my wife doesn’t want a PC in the living room, so I don’t go there. Her “office” is set up in there, by the way, she’s okay with having a flat panel iMac in the living room, just not a PC.

Could I get the same effect using a Mac? You betcha. In fact, with the ability to stream music via Airport Express, I could take it one step further. The major difference would be that the selection of games or flight simulators I might want to run would be more limited. Other than that, a Mac would be prettier and easier to use.

Really, the only downside of doing the same thing with the Mac is that all the TV devices one uses with them I know of are external. ATI doesn’t make an All-in-Wonder card for the Mac, and that’s too bad. There really isn’t a technical reason not to.

So, if you’re really looking for convergence, especially if you want to integrate photography or video or streaming music in with other multimedia functions, take a strong look at a Mac. Do your own research. Make up your own mind. That way, no matter what decision you make, you’ll at least now you weren’t schmallered into making a decision you might later regret.