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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
New Media Home: The Conclusion
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

For four weeks a Gloucestershire family was at the centre of the new media revolution.

Family's final verdict on life in the interactive home

We gave them all the technology they needed to try out the latest video and music services on the internet.

Now we've taken it away again - so what have we and the Bostons learned?

BOSTON FAMILY GADGETS
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

After installing a wi-fi network and hooking up a new high-definition television to a Windows Media Centre PC and the rival Apple TV, we set the family a number of tasks.

We wanted them to download a movie and watch an internet news bulletin. We asked them to try out two new web television services, Joost and Jalipo. And they had told us that one of their favourite programmes was the American comedy drama Ugly Betty - so could they download an episode?

The Bostons are pretty typical in their media and computing habits.

Before our arrival, they had a widescreen, cathode ray tube (CRT) television, a Sky dish, and a pretty ancient computer with a fixed broadband connection.

Dean and Suzanne Boston both use computers in their jobs - but at home have to compete with their teenage daughters for access to the PC. Emily and Olivia are both quite tech-savvy, and had already downloaded music and looked at some online videos.

Value for money?

But when it came to completing those tasks, it wasn't all plain sailing.

Watching a news bulletin and downloading a movie was not too challenging.

The family got used to getting a quick video news update from the BBC News website.

And for the movie, they went to a DVD subscription service, which also offers downloads, and pretty quickly the movie was on the Media Centre. But they thought the service looked pretty costly - and were not impressed with the selection on offer.

Ugly Betty
Watching Ugly Betty proved to be difficult

The new dedicated internet television services, Joost and Jalipo, did not impress at all.

After a few false starts, they managed to download the Joost software and view the service on the television. But Dean's verdict?

"It's rubbish - I'm not interested in old episodes of the Man from Uncle," he said.

"If it was something like episodes of 24, it might be worth the bother."

And Suzanne was not much more impressed with Jalipo, a platform for pay-TV on the internet: "I can't see myself paying for that."

What of Ugly Betty?

Well their experience trying to download an episode seemed to encapsulate all the promise and frustrations of internet television.

Boston Family
It could be so much better in a year's time
Dean Boston

A quick search revealed that it was available via iTunes and on Channel Four's 4OD.

But closer examination revealed that only American customers could buy television programmes from Apple's online store and an attempt to download from 4OD failed because the site was not compatible with the Vista operating system on the PC.

The family did find the programme on various file-sharing sites, but were nervous about the whole copyright issue, so stopped short of downloading.

A few days after we had removed the technology from the Bostons' home, I rang to find out whether they were missing it.

Perhaps surprisingly, they were.

It was the lack of computers that made the real difference.

"We miss the Media Centre and the MacBook more than I thought," said Dean Boston. "It has really slowed us up."

With internet television in its infancy, our new media family may have been trying it just a little early.

Despite their problems with both the technology and the content, they have emerged enthusiastic about the idea.

"It could be so much better in a year's time," says Dean Boston.

"When you look at the content that's available in the States you have to ask 'when is that coming to Britain?'"




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A family in Gloucestershire try out the new technology





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