My wife has been on a cost cutting kick the past few years. On the docket is cable TV. We have it bundled with phone and internet and at first glance it seems like it's only about $20 or $30 a month for fabulous TV. But when we added up the cost of boxes and other services it was more like $60 to $70 a month.
The set top boxes alone are $36 a month! Yes there is a DVR, and no you really don't need a DVR today. We end up recording shows we can download online for free the next day.
We started playing with little add on boxes like Roku. It works well, with a small ARM processor. But there are issues. We like watching live TV, mostly the news. We live close enough to the transmitters to get all of the local channels for free off the air in HD.
The problem is integrating live TV with the internet. Surprisingly there is one solution that works, Windows Media Center in Windows 7 and Vista. With a TV card you can record, pause, and rewind live TV.
The problem is that many of the Home Theater PC's (HTPCs) in the past have been huge. Trust me, your wife doesn't want them in the living room.
The solution may be the next generation Atom. The D2700 will supposedly run an HDMI TV, and blu ray. For about an hour worth of your time and less than $250 you can build something that can sit on top of your TV that can do blu ray, internet streaming, over the air TV, and perhaps pick up the first 50 to 100 channels on your digital cable network. It can record live TV as well. At less than 10 watts it will be quiet and efficient.
This is the first of many boards. I expect to see a fleet of them next month in Vegas at CES. It will be my second HTPC build. My contract with the cable company expires in May and by then we'll be done with them. In my home set top boxes will be replaced by an i3 setup and the rest Atom D2700s. I have a feeling that this will be a growing market for Wintel.