For the uninitiated, HTPC stands for Home Theater PC. Its basically a PC designed to replace all your home theater needs; generally it means watching/recording live TV broadcast (with time shifting ala TIVO!), recorded TV programs as well as your collection of DVD movies. Besides watching video, you will also be able to use it to listen to your CD collection and AM/FM radio. On top of these conventional means of home entertainment, your HTPC can also be used for gaming, video conferencing and even karaoke!
So out go your VCR, DVR, DVD player, CD player, AM/FM tuner, TIVO, gaming console, karaoke and VC system. One box to rule them all. Yes, you will still need your bad ass audio setup (i.e. amp and speakers) and your TV of course. Erm.. hang on, TV is actually optional now since your HTPC can serve as the TV tuner so you may want to replace it with a projector for the big screen cinema effect.
Besides just replacing functionalities in your living room setup, a HTPC also opens up your reach to the content via the internet. So apart from your own collection of DVDs, CDs and the local airwave, you will also get access to an (nearly) infinite source of streaming media, ranging from shoutcast audio to Utube videos!
Sold on the idea yet? Want to know how to get started? Stay tuned for the next episode...