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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
New media family on tech journey
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Meet our New Media Home family

The year 2007 is shaping up to be the year of a new media revolution - and one family in Gloucestershire, in the UK, is going to be at the cutting edge.

New video-on-demand services are launching almost weekly - from BT Vision to Channel 4's 4oD to Joost - and more and more music is being sold online.

So the BBC has fitted out the Boston family with the kind of kit you might need to take full advantage of a world where all the media you want arrives in digital form down your phone line.

In the first week it seems clear that it is the HD TV that is most radically altering the family's media habits.


In the BBC New Media Home, the Boston family are getting to grips with the idea of accessing all their video and music via the internet - and finding that some aspects of new technology are easier than others.

Apple TV
Samsung 37inch HDTV
Belkin Wireless router
Acer Aspire iDea 500 media center PC
Apple TV (pictured)
Apple MacBook
Sonos wireless music system
Kodak wireless digital photo frame

We have fitted out the home with a wireless network, a high-definition television, a Media Centre PC, Apple TV - and other equipment designed to let the Bostons try out the latest in new media technology.

Gentle progress

Suzanne Boston, a primary school teacher, was probably less enthused by the idea of bringing more media choices into her home than other members of the family. But so far, she seems enthusiastic.

"We're making gentle progress," she says. "We've downloaded a couple of films from an internet service. We're enjoying the technology without being overwhelmed by it."

Not everything has proved easy. When the family tried to download programmes from Channel Four's 4OD service they found that it was not compatible with Windows Vista - the operating system on their Media Centre PC.

The Apple TV system - designed to take media content from a laptop to the TV - has also proved a little tricky.

"We haven't quite got to grips with it, " says Dean Boston. "We downloaded a music video onto the laptop - and we thought we'd synchronised it to the television. But when we went to have a look it wasn't there."

Wowed by HD

17 year old Emily Boston is particularly taken by the most expensive piece of kit we've supplied, the Sonos wireless music system.

"As it's hot we've used it a lot outside," she says. Emily was already used to downloading music from the internet - but she now finds she listens to far more internet radio: "You can just choose the style of music you want to hear - I'm choosing pop, and Mum and Dad are going for 80s."

But so far it isn't the internet which is changing the Bostons' media habits most radically.

What has really impressed them is the new HD television, linked to a Sky HD box. "The children are using that a lot," says Suzanne Boston. "They've been recording all sorts of stuff."

The media industry seems convinced that video over the internet is going to change everyone's lives. But right now our new media family seems more interested in what's arriving via their satellite dish.


Until now, the Bostons' media habits have been pretty typical of the nation as a whole. Like more than 50% of households they have broadband, like 77% they have digital television - though the family has one five-year-old PC and only signed up to satellite TV because the terrestrial signal in the valley where they live was so weak.

"We're quite traditional," says Dean Boston. "We listen to the radio, have a CD player in the car - and watch Sky."

But Suzanne Boston, a primary school teacher, does have an iPod and is getting used to buying music online. Their teenage daughters, Emily and Olivia, are the most adept at using new technology, spending a lot of time on the family computer chatting online to friends.

Wireless network

We have set up a wireless network in their home - and installed a range of hardware and software which will give the family a bewildering choice of media products.

They have a new HD television, along with the HD set-top box needed to get high-definition channels.

A media centre PC is connected to the TV - and to the wireless network - allowing them to download video from a range of sites. We've also given them a rival product - the new Apple TV set-top box - and we have set up a system which streams music around their home.

The family is now getting to grips with the new set-up.

They will spend the coming weeks looking at everything from short clips on YouTube to movies downloaded from the net.

They will be able to watch whatever they want, where and when they want it - and as they move around their house, they'll be able to access their whole music collection in any room.

But Emily Boston already foresees a few battles with her parents over who's in charge in the living-room.

"Dad will want to watch TV, but we'll want to go on the computer on the massive screen in here - so there could be a few fights over that," she said.

We have asked the Bostons to keep a diary of their media habits before and after they received the new equipment.

With companies from Microsoft to Apple to Sony all trying to build a dominant role in the digital home, the results of our experiment could provide a pointer to who will win this battle.

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