The Future Ain’t for Pansies
What with the latest Mac Expo fast approaching, I’ve been doing my absolute best to completely ignore everything about it. I haven’t read the hype, I’ve ignored the prognostications, and resolutely plugged my ears and hummed loudly (and off key) whenever a discussion of future products arose nearby. So I’m afraid I can offer you nothing of substance to feed that junkie craving you have to get juiced up on more Apple speculation. However, I can offer you a look at a very interesting product that has some definite potential, it’s called the Neuros OSD.
This product is a unique competitor to the Apple TV in that it is less polished but has more features. Now, generally speaking, in the battle of Better Integration vs. More Features I tend to favor the former. However, in the case of using and storing my media, I might be willing to make an exception. Before we get much farther I should point out that this isn’t a review of the Neuros OSD. Rather this is a look at what this device can do, what I would like it to do, where the industry seems to be heading, and how Apple fits in to all of this.
To get the full scoop on this gadget, head to their main site. Or, if you want lots of info on it then check out their Wiki FAQ page. But please allow me to assault you with the most important bits. In short, you plug something into the Neuros and it records it to some external storage device. Additionally, it can act as a bridge between your computer and your TV, allowing for remote access to your files. Oh, and did I mention that the entire thing is open and that they encourage their users to hack the device?
So now that you have the basic idea let us talk about what this all means to your average Mac user. For starters, you can plug your TV into one end of the Neuros and record TV shows directly to your iPod (which you have conveniently plugged in to the other end). Tell me that isn’t cool. And you can do the same thing for DVDs, VHS tapes (read old home movies), or live feeds from a camcorder. So let me explain what this means. You could set up this device to record the latest episode of Dr. Who from your TV set to an external hard drive. You could use the Neuros to record a movie to a memory card and then play it on your neighbor’s computer. You could record your best speed run of the last level in Halo 3 and upload it directly to YouTube. You could put your old home movies onto your iPhone. Or, if you are of suspicious temperament, you could hook up a video camera to the Neuros and record a live feed to a remote computer using a wireless network. Think of it as an extremely hacked together home security system.
Now, most people probably won’t be using that last idea. However, everything else I’ve mentioned really isn’t that far fetched. What makes the Neuros so much more useful than something like the Apple TV is its ability to record media. Of course it is possible that Apple will add some of this functionality to the Apple TV in the future (possibly the very near future). And I hope they do, because right now, to me, the Neuros (at $215 on Amazon) looks to be a better deal than the Apple TV ($299). That is to say that I would be willing to deal with the added complexity and lower degree of integration for the benefits of being able to record anything I wanted.
I like the idea behind the Neuros because it exists not as the massively complex media PC that Microsoft is pushing and it isn’t tied to only one feature (meaning it only records TV shows like many DVRs). It incorporates many great features without tying the user to one particular format or operating system. So, even if you don’t like all the details of how the Neuros operates, I do think you have to like the flexibility it offers. And as people become more and more used to managing their media however they like, I have to believe devices like this will only become more popular.