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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Digital lifestyle edges closer
By Chris McWhinnie
At the IBC in Amsterdam

Young people are taking the lead in embracing a digital lifestyle, according to BBC research.

IBC show in Amsterdam
IBC showcases the latest in the media industry
It is the under-34s who have most rapidly adopted the new media and made alternative use of their time.

They watch fewer ordinary TV channels and rather than sit down to watch, they treat the TV more as a kind of entertainment, the study found.

The BBC's research will lead to four new media initiatives, Ashley Highfield, BBC Director of New Media and Technology, told delegates at one of Europe's biggest media events, the 2003 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

The public wants TV to be more local, so the BBC is to use its established network of local radio stations to provide local TV reports via digital platforms.

Many young people have the TV on, but do not watch it in the traditional sense. They treat it as an ambient entertainment while they do other things. So an audio description channel, describing what is happening on-screen, is to be launched.

The BBC is to create a "Super EPG" - electronic programme guide - which will allow the retrieval of recent and archive TV programmes using a new internet media player, similar to the internet BBC's Radio Player.

The BBC is also to offer scrolling text and other information from its digital radio stations via the Freeview and satellite digital systems.

Entertainment continuum

An increasing number of homes have games consoles, digital cameras, digital TV boxes, DVD players, MP3 music players and personal computers. They deliver entertainment, photos, audio and video.

But these digital boxes do not connect together easily or flexibly.

People huddle around the PC to see digital holiday snaps, digital TV channels are tied to a single set-top box and they cannot listen to downloaded music in the bathroom and garden as well as via the PC.

Could this become the entertainment hub of your home?
The conference heard from a range of experts from Apple, Microsoft, Intel, NDS and Philips that the answer to these problems is a home network.

But how many people have so far created a home computer network? Only a few of us, according to Ruston Panabaker of Microsoft TV - 2.2% in the UK and in the US, 30% of broadband users.

But consumers have a wish list, he said, such as finding photos, music and films easily. They want their media to follow them around the house and be able to connect and receive e-mails and messages wherever they choose.

Above all, he said, this should be easy to install and to keep working, without expert knowledge.

The idea that the personal computer and TV set would converge into one product has been left behind.

Instead, the digital lifestyle is a consumer-led concept, not a technical one. Engineers now have to agree on which standards to use.

"It should just work", said Simon Perry, publisher of the UK's online publication Digital-Lifestyles.info.

The day a new wireless network card or computer printer really does just work straight from the box and not need hours of configuration sounds like an attractive proposition.

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19 Mar 03  |  Technology

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