Seems everybody and their dog wants to use a Mac mini as a media center, I know I do. Currently there are a few solution out there for doing this, most of the best ones from El Gato. Gadget site galore Engadget posted a how-to on this earlier.
Needing to buy two different devices from El Gato is the part that really turns me off. I am hoping that they come up with a better all-in-one solution that will handle capturing of audio/video content as well as the output of said content. The last great piece of the puzzle would be for them to toss in a nice 200 gig hard drive. Sure a device like this would probably cost more than the Mac mini but between buying the EyeTV, EyeHome, and an external hard drive you have already spent more than what the Mac mini goes for. But for a single all-in-one device that connects to the Mac mini or other Mac models through a single firewire connector to provide capturing, playback, and storage options it would be worth it. Wouldn’t hurt if it was about the same size and shape as the Mac mini either.
There is another option out there for us people who want Mac based media centers. The Mac Media Center Project is a new project dedicated to bringing open sourced freeware PVR capabilities to the Mac platform. You will still have to worry about providing input and output devices as needed but hopefully this software will eventually support great solutions like the Hauppauge WinTV PVR line of PCI cards. One of the good things about the Mac Media Center Project is also a bad thing though. They are planning on building the software up from scratch. This will hopefully make it much more integrated with Mac OS X and Mac hardware but it will take the project much longer to get off the ground this way. If they were to base their efforts off of the open source Linux project MythTV it would give them a nice head start and they could work more on giving it Mac integration and a great Mac style front-end and spend less time mucking around trying to get the back-end working.
Obviously we have a ways to go before Mac based media centers really come into their own the way Windows based ones have over the past few years but people are interested and working on solutions. And we have no idea what Apple themselves have cooking in Cupertino. Could be that they are designing and testing such a product right this minute.