What else is popping in tech? Plenty. The siren call of the digital home has computer and entertainment giants jockeying to colonize your living room with slick new gadgets and services. That means a confusing 2005 for most of us, but a happy hunting ground for gizmo lovers.
By Adam Lashinsky

(FORTUNE Magazine) – 2

For the electronically fashion-forward, the Roku HD 1000 digital media player is one of the sexiest new gadgets around. This sleek $300 device that sits near your big-bucks flat-screen high-definition TV heralds the arrival of something pundits have predicted for years: the digital home. The Roku lets you display digitized photos and art on the screen, which is part of what the digital home is all about: connecting TVs, stereos, PCs, and game machines all around your house and making them swap images and music and files for your enjoyment.

A 12-person Silicon Valley startup, Roku is proof once again that key technological innovations often come from small companies. But Roku has sold only 7,000 or so of the devices, which proves another point: The digital home--and pups like Roku--won't thrive until the big dogs of IT and consumer electronics get their acts together. Sony, Intel, Apple, Philips, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, DirecTV, Comcast, Verizon--the list goes on and on--all are pushing visions of the digital household. But they have not yet settled on standards and other conventions that will make ordinary users feel truly welcome.

While iPods, digital video recorders, DVD players, and even digital TVs have found their way into many of our lives, consumers haven't generally begun to connect the devices--even though the devices can in fact connect. Even Wi-Fi, the most broadly accepted wireless networking technology, is installed in just 6% of U.S. households, according to Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. Says Josh Bernoff, who follows digital trends for Forrester: "People are not going to spend money to connect all their devices if they don't see any advantage to it."

The bottom line is that 2005 hardly stands to be the year most households will network their gadgets. Yet for early adopters, the year will be paradise. They're the small minority of consumers who are willing to spend gobs of money to be first on the block with a new technology, and who are prepared to tolerate the inevitable missteps and duds.

So, do you feel like pulling up stakes and moving your household to the digital frontier? You could buy a Windows Media Center PC that's part TV, part TiVo, and part computer. The device--built to specifications developed by Microsoft and licensed to manufacturers--is currently in its third version and made by 80 companies. Or you can experiment with a Windows Media extender from Cisco's Linksys division. The $250 unit will link the various digital devices in your home. Philips has a new line of Streamium TVs that use Wi-Fi to connect multiple sets. Apple pioneered using Wi-Fi to ship music from computers to stereos.

Trust us, spending the money will be easy. Anticipating which gadget will be in style a year from now--that's where you need a pioneer spirit. -- Adam Lashinsky