Digital Multitasking Systems: All-in-One Media for Your Unique Lifestyle

OncologyLive, February 2007, Volume 8, Issue 2

Whether you're looking for the best all-in-one television/Internet/gaming PC, or simply a program that provides optimal photographic images, there is a product out there for you.

Imagine a system capable of streaming video, television shows, music, and podcasts all through the Internet. Picture photos and movie trailers appearing with a double-click of your mouse. Now imagine watching it all unfold in the sanctuary of your living room, on your 52-inch plasma screen.

Until the advent of the Internet, medical students were pulling research solely out of those abandoned storage facilities we call libraries. Now, computer companies have made the mutual exclusivity of information, entertainment, and communication a thing of the past. Responses to a poll for our 20 Ways to Connect, Manage, and Relax article last month echoed this perception. When asked "what do you do when you're not in the office treating patients?" 65 out of 454 physicians polled mentioned taking photographs, listening to music, watching movies, and playing video games. Because these particular activities are of interest to our readers, we would like to offer a little insight into the world of the all-in-one digital system.

One-Stop Shopping

Consider the convenience of a 7-11: quick access to the staples like bread, milk, and eggs, as well as your standard over-the-counter meds and lottery tickets. Multimedia systems work much the same way by providing the same quick access to information as they do video games or movie downloads.

Taking into account that the average American spends approximately four hours a day watching the boob tube (www.adweek.com), it's clear we like our television programming, and we know how we like it. Add that number to the average 108 minutes we spend searching, the Internet daily, and you have a media audience that spends nearly a quarter of its day partaking in some form of digital entertainment.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) offers a couple options to assist people in accomplishing this: the HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7780n PC and the HP MediaSmart LCD TV. Representatives from HP wrote to MDNG, stating that the Pavilion Media Center TV delivers high definition movie playback with six times better resolution and three times better audio capability than standard DVD--a perfect addition to any home. The 37-inch MediaSmart TV allows users to access and view their photos, music, videos and a range of Internet services wired or wirelessly through their television--truly a breakthrough in digital convergence, wrote the HP reps. In fact, the HP MediaSmart LCD TV was named a 2006 Electronic House magazine Product of the Year.

Apple is another corporation that is combining the features of the computer with those of the home entertainment system. The recent launch of Apple TV, scheduled for general release this month, was accompanied by claims it would change] the way you watch digital media. The system connects to your TV via an HDMI port or component video and audio ports. Its wireless capability syncs iTunes customers' library to both Macs and PCs. That goes for digital photos, too. Think of the recreational time that you, the busy physician, will save by having it all in one place.

An October 2006 report by Gizmodo, the gadget guide, noted similar findings in the still-steady demand for TiVo, which, in case you've been living in a cave, is a video recorder that automatically finds and digitally records all your favorite shows. By recently teaming with cable provider Comcast, TiVo has made the ease of digital recording even more accessible to its subscribers. Similarly, Microsoft Corporation has stepped up its access to the wonderful world of television with the introduction of the MSN TV 2 Internet Media Player. Unlike many multimedia systems, MSN TV 2 is not a PC and does not require any software to buy or install. Rather, a broadband connection and wireless keyboard are all the tools you need to stream TV and all the typical Internet features, including Instant Messenger.

MSN TV is a set-top box that simply connects to a TV and telephone [or broadband] line, enabling the user to connect to the Internet and read/write e-mail, says Scott Crissman, Senior Marketing Manager, MSN Access for Microsoft Corporation. An advanced functionality of the product is the ability to connect to a home network. This would allow the user to stream photos, music, and videos through the home network to a TV or entertainment system [if the entertainment system is connected to the TV/mediacenter]. Demos are available for free access at www.msntv.com/pc/experience.

Among the core benefits described by Crissman are easy set-up, simplicity of use, and affordability. MSN TV is also a great solution for a second Internet access point in the home. While the kids are on the PC playing games, our users can quickly check e-mail or surf from the comfort of their couch, says Crissman. Paired with Microsoft TracNetTM 100 mobile Internet system (which offers mobile access to all of MSN TV 2's services), you can stay connected, even when you're away from home.

Moreover, the concept of all-in-one is not limited to the couch potato. Media conglomerates have designed a system with every hobby in mind. Dell Inc., for example, has improved its desktop and laptop systems, namely the XPSTM 710 H2C and XPS M1710, respectively. Both systems utilize high quality processors for the most advanced gaming performance. The result? Turbocharged performance, making it easier than ever to work with digital photos, movies, music, and the Web. Because of the advances in technology today, physicians can enter a huge pool of resources for all of their text and graphical needs.

Whether searching a database of images, MP3s, or videos, today any individual [clinician, person] with a desktop/laptop PC and broadband connection to the Internet has the power to broadcast the Internet to the world, says Bill Crounse, MD, Healthcare Industry Director for Microsoft Corporation. Additionally, any physician can do telemedicine from his or her laptop PC and take advantage of the latest communication technology, like [Microsoft's] Office Communicator or Windows Messenger that allow you to connect with one or more people via audio/video conference just as easily as you can via e-mail or instant message.

Reinventing the Wheel

In today's society, almost everyone owns a computer, but how many people actually use all of the accompanying software programs that come with a new one? Do you want more memory, but don't want to spend the extra money to buy an external hard drive? If so, maybe you should look into getting a computer that you can design from the inside out. Check out Falcon Northwest's Mach V or Voodoo PC's OMEN two high-tech computers that cater to your needs. MDNG spoke with Kelt Reeves, President of Falcon Northwest, who told us that most of the people who end up purchasing a computer from his company do so after spending time using mainstream computers because they have a clearer focus on the type of entertainment in which they are most interested ... the Gateways and now they're looking for something much more powerful and something that was made specifically for them, said Reeves. So, we're definitely dealing with an experienced computer user.

The Mach V is one of the longest-running PC series in the industry (in development since 1992), and for the past two years, PC Magazine has voted it as one of the best products of the year. The system's success can be attributed to its constant evolution and customized specifications. Although Falcon focuses on high-end gamers, people who enjoy photography or making videos can also use the Mach V. Said Reeves, Photoshop [for example,] doesn't really use your graphics card much, so all the 3-D capabilities that a high-end gamer might need, a Photoshop person might not. But a Photoshop person is going to need an awful lot more memory, and depending on the size of the pictures they're going to use, they might need a fairly large hard drive as well.

Even though the Mach V is designed for the experienced computer user, photographers, amateur gamers, and other multimedia hobbyists will also fi nd much to like about it and can use the system with the greatest of ease. As with Falcon Northwest, Voodoo is a company dedicated to delivering leading-edge performance, style, and craftsmanship to discerning PC enthusiasts.

Voodoo's OMEN offers users flexible configurations from an advanced liquid cooling system to a near-silent, air-cooled configuration [andis the only PC to offer such flexibility and upgradeability. According to Voodoo, the OMEN's features include four medium-flow, low-noise fans to make the system as quiet as possible while still optimizing cooling capability, up to four hard drives, and 2GB or 4GB of memory with the choice of dual-core or quad-core central processing units that allow for multitasking. Jeff McCrea, VP of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group, gave praise to Voodoo's efforts by saying, VoodooPC's OMEN.i:121 Extreme, featuring this latest desktop processor innovation, will wow gamers and media enthusiasts.

Dell's laptops also rely on the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 Duo-Core processor. Built [with] the hard-core gamer in mind, the XPS M1710 lets you watch movies while running a virus scanner, ripping CDs, listening to MP3s and playing games simultaneously. Possibly most notable, however, is its NVIDIA GeForceTM Go 7950 GTX graphics card and PureVideoTM technology. Add to that the XPS LightFXTM 16-color LED lighting feature, and you have an intense gaming atmosphere in a travel-sized bundle.

Dell also brings its line of XPS models to the desktop world. The XPS 710 relies on an Intel CoreTM 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor twice as enduring as the duo-core to provide high definition media with more customization options than any home PC [Dell] ever built. Its two-stage cooling system combines a liquid radiator with control circuitry for optimal cooling that requires little energy use. Translation? Hours of game play at up to nine degrees cooler than the average desktop platform. Just think of how many extra seasons you can play in Madden 2007 with that kind of staying power.

For those who prefer a mainstream computer, then perhaps the TouchSmart PC developed by HP is the answer for you and your family. This touch-screen PC comes with a 19-inch LCD screen, wireless keyboard, and mouse and enables users to perform a variety of tasks, like checking the weather, editing and viewing photos, managing the family's schedule, accessing favorite websites, or watching a recorded TV show. Special features include the HP SmartCenter, used to customize favorite links; HP SmartCalendar, used to maintain scheduling; and HP Photosmart Touch, used to manage digital photographs. At the 2007 Computer Electronics Show, the TouchSmart was named by Yahoo! Tech as its Last Gadget Standing online winner.

If you're interested in purchasing a laptop with similar features in a lighter model, check out the newest version developed by Falcon: the TLX. One-and-a-half inches thick and weighing approximately seven pounds, the TLX has a 17-inch screen with a full-sized keyboard. According to the Falcon's website, the new TLX Th in and Light series model defi es the laws of physics. Most people can't believe when they pick the thing up that a screen that big can be in a laptop that thin and that light, said Kelt Reeves.

The Great Indoors

Ever wish you could just sit down and relax in front of your television or computer and have access to any form of digital entertainment, right at your fingertips? Perhaps what you're looking for is a system that offers you Internet access and the ability to listen to music, watch videos, and look at photographs, among other activities. Or maybe you'd prefer a system that offers all of these, plus the opportunity to play video games. Media companies have quite literally transformed not only the way we think about information and entertainment, but the way we access it, too.

Dr. Crounse, emphasizing the benefits of all-in-one digital systems as they pertain to the physician audience, stated, I early on began to appreciate the potential of the Internet to deliver health information and very targeted information to the audiences who need it, it's not just really broadcasting information out, but it's actually a social networking phenomenon that allows two-way communication. [Microsoft's] home entertainment and gaming divisions, Xbox in particular, are doing a lot of interesting work.

Some of the newer hospitals are revamping their digital entertainment capabilities; building in our Windows Media and Xbox systems not only for entertainment, but also for education and communications, ordering meals, filling out surveys and taking part in a host of various services. If your main interest is video games, then check out the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3), and Xbox 360.

Each of these consoles goes beyond playing video games by also letting users play movies, listen to music, and access the Internet with broadband. The Wii is the epitome of the all-in-one system, because not only is it a fantastic video game platform, it also lets users access channels to perform other tasks: the Shop Channel, an online service for downloading video games; the Photo Channel, which enables users to load digital photos from their camera's memory card and then manipulate them a variety of fun and creative ways the News Channel, for accessing breaking news from around the world, and the Forecast Channel, for checking weather reports. Nintendo reps explained to MDNG that the Wii is very unique because of the interactive remote, and the system is twice as small as Xbox 360 or the PS3, so it's easy to tuck away in your entertainment center. It's great for a busy physician, because it's a good way to spend time with the entire family.

In the January 26 press release announcing the arrival of the News Channel, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said, "What Wii has done for video gaming we hope it will also accomplish for news. Just by pointing at your TV screen, you become your own interactive editor, instantly accessing the latest headline stories, whether they originate in Kansas City or Kyoto."

The Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 offer similar capabilities, such as wireless remote controls, Internet access, and more. Xbox 360 users will enjoy watching DVDs, listening to music, and viewing photos. The PS3 features a Blu-ray disc player, which enables users to “enjoy next-generation high-definition entertainment, including games and movies,” a 20GB or 60GB removable hard drive, and easy transfer of media files and photos with the PlayStation.

Sure, you’re probably saying, this is all well and good if all you want to do is play video games and mess around online. But what about more serious, careerdriven activities, like professional photography? We’ve got that covered, too. Apple’s Aperture 1.5, for example, is “the first all-in-one post-production tool for serious photographers.” The program boasts customized, color-managed workfl ows and even provides online tutorials and training certifi cation course(). Whether you want to print a contact sheet or need a lab print, there’s no need to visit your one-hour photo lab. And let’s face it; the quality of a one-hour print—actually produced in three or four hours—is not of the highest caliber. Users can download a free trial online before purchasing.

As physicians, you lead a hectic life full of appointments and paperwork, and sometimes you’d like to take some time to enjoy a good movie or some nice music in the peace and quiet of your own home. Our “20 Ways to Connect, Manage, and Relax” poll revealed technologies and strategies used by physicians in dayto-day practice to effi ciently manage patients and deliver the best possible care. Docs mentioned Apple’s Mac systems, laptops, and a slew of Internet websites from which they can print and hand out information to their patients (eg, www.guidelines.gov, www.aan.com, www.uptodate.com) among those tools used on a daily basis. The best part about these resources? They are just as accessible in the office as they are from your couch.

Voodoo claims its ARIA Quiet Media Center is the quietest system on the market today, giving purchasers the option of selecting a video card or a second card for gaming, 2GB of RAM, and a 256MB NVIDIA graphics card. Just like the OMEN, ARIA users can choose up to four hard drives to “copy your entire DVD collection onto the hard drives so when you want to watch a specific movie you just have to scroll through the library and play the movie instead of having to fi nd the DVD, take it out of the box and put it in the computer,” according to Voodoo.

With a market that’s full of many types of media systems, it’s all a matter of choice. Do you want a video game console that offers DVD capabilities, Internet, music, and videos? Do you want a computer with which you can decide what components to include? Or, do you want a system that offers everything in one sleek package? Lucky for you, there are a multitude of products available for your every hobby, professional endeavor, or sheer entertainment.