Tune in Tomorrow for the Digital Living Room?

When Microsoft introduced its long-awaited Xbox 360 console on May 12 in an MTV special, its intentions went beyond just fun and games, The company called the long-awaited product a "future-generation game and entertainment system." While Xbox 360 promises to offer video games compatible with HDTV, fast processing and a lot of memory, Microsoft also noted that the system can play DVDs and CDs, stream music from MP3 players, and network with the company's "Media Center" PCs to stream digital content around the house, among other tasks.

Microsoft's market: The increasingly crowded living room. In fact, the parade of technology companies targeting home entertainment is a long one. Dell Computer sells TVs. Apple Computer's iMac Mini is viewed by analysts as a potential entertainment server. Media-ready PCs abound from the likes of Hewlett-Packard. These technology stalwarts are selling wares that were typically offered by consumer electronic giants such as Sony. But do they have what it takes to compete in your living room? Is the so-called digital living room -- in which audio and visual content is available on demand and combined with Internet and other applications in one seamless environment -- fact or fantasy? Who will the winners ultimately be? Wharton experts say the digital living room is becoming a reality, but slowly.

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Monty Solomon
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