Ho-Ho-Ho Home Servers

Santa’s got a brand new bag of servers. The home media network may find some tech limelight this holiday season, if only by default. Since this is shaping up to be the blandest tech-shopping season in a decade — bellwether categories like Apple products, flat panel TVs, PCs and video games are absolutely bereft of major new products — home networks are a bigger deal that they might otherwise have been.

Microsoft announced that its Media Server software running on HP MediaSmart server will be discounted for the holidays. Kodak unveiled a new home theater HD player that centralizes the storage of digital images and sound, feeding content wirelessly to digital picture frames throughout the house.

And a new family of so-called digital media extenders is coming for the holidays. These — usually wireless — routers take PC-based content and port it to TVs. The market was originally defined and limited by the struggling Apple TV, but now mainstream makers like D-Link, Linksys and Niveus Media are all shipping products, some of which seem compelling in early testing.

Brands are refining their offerings instead of pitching one product that does it all. “The Swiss Army Knife TV does not work,” says Tim Baxter, executive vice president for consumer electronics at Samsung North America. “But we are confident in our track record of finding the specific features that can delivered to a market.”

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