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Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Last week I wrote that Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will most likely not be seeing CableCARD support and that we will be waiting for Longhorn for such a feature to be correctly implemented.  This has left a few of you questioning Microsoft’s future role of owning the living room.  If they don’t further HDTV support in Media Center 2005 this year is it over for Microsoft?  Quite frankly, the answer is no.


The race to win your living room still belongs to Microsoft as a frontrunner.  Microsoft might just have so many tricks up their sleeve that it’s not even funny.  While Media Center is part of the equation to winning, the second largest part is actually the Xbox 360.  Before you stop reading because you think I’m going to take about it having a built in Media Center Extender or the ability to be a Windows Media Connect client for non-Media Center PC’s, how about if Microsoft had a damn good reasoning behind not including an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray drive in the Xbox 360?  While the cost factor of either drive is part of the reason, there may indeed be a bigger reason.


What if the Xbox 360 would play Blu-Ray and/or HD-DVD content over your home network?  That would sure be cool, but could it work?  It sure could, and it just might be Microsoft’s other key to win your living room.


Microsoft just happens to be one of the founding members of the Advanced Access Content System LA (AACS LA) organization.  IBM happens to be another member, and we know that the Xbox 360 includes PowerPC processors; I’m not sure what else is made by IBM in the box, but stay with me for a second.  The AACS is the copy protection system that will be used in HD-DVD and I believe that the BD Group has also adopted it for use with Blu-Ray titles  One of the goals of the AACS is to actually give you back some of your fair use, it’s shocking but true.  That would include giving you the ability to store a copy of the movie on your PC/Media Server and stream it throughout your home.  Of course that comes at a price, buying specific components that will abide by the new system.  Microsoft may have already thought about that and could have the Xbox 360 update it’s software over Xbox Live!, and thus enable playback of HD-DVD and/or Blu-Ray titles that you legally have stored on your home PC/Media Server.  Remember that the Xbox 360 will be Live! enabled out-of-the-box at no additional cost to the owner.  Release a software update, get it for free over Xbox Live! and add a huge feature to your Xbox 360?  Sounds too good to be true, but it might just be the key to Microsoft really winning the battle for your living room.


Having said that, I would not be surprised if the Media Server functions would again not be possible until Longhorn ships.  Longhorn will be the key to digital media and your home, and I doubt that offerings from other companies could even start comparing to what Microsoft could offer us (in theory).


This brings up another point, are people willing to wait for Longhorn?  As I see it, the answer is yes.  In terms of the living room, I think we are still a year or so from the majority of people being into it.  If Microsoft can start laying the basic framework for all of these devices to talk to each other and share content, and then make it all upgradeable for a low price, they will win the battle for the living room.

Published Thu, Jun 2 2005 22:59 by chrisl


# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

I could care less quite frankly about Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. All I want to do is watch the Sopranos on HDTV on my Media Center PC. I have more recorded TV to deal with than I know what to do with and have no time for Blu-Ray or HD-DVD or the rest of the scoundrels.

Smoke and mirrors I say.

XBox 360 meant something when I could stream HD HBO to it. Now instead of buying four XBox 360s for the house I'll end up buying 0. So count four more units for the serious hardcore gamers, J Allard should be happy.

Of course we have to wait for Longhorn, Microsoft is still the only game in town.. well them and my HDTV TiVo (thank God for TiVo), but it still sucks Chris.

Microsoft totally has the technology to do this today but they are more concerned with selling DRM technology to Hollywood and building relationships with the Bells and their IPTV initiatives than caring if I get to see Sex in the City in HDTV or not.

It sucks -- as does the lack of transparency with the issues at hand.

The last thing in the world I want is my content on DVD.

Such is life.

Friday, June 03, 2005 12:28 AM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

I have to agree with Thomas and add two other points. Unless the law is changed, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act prohibts bypassing the encryption on a DVD or any other medium. No matter how secure Microsoft makes streaming Blue Ray or HD-DVD, they would still be breaking the law by bypassing the security on the discs. See Kaleidescope as an example.

Also, the thing that is most frustrating about no cable card support isn't the lack of protected HDTV, it is the requirement that I use set-top boxes and IR blasters. The rental fees for set-top boxes are double the cost of cable cards and the IR blasters make changing channels slow and often inaccurate. I used IR blasters back when I bought the original ReplayTV and they were a pain back then.

By the time Longhorn comes out, cable and satellite providers will have already been offering their customers central servers with client boxes for 6 months. And these servers will connect to your PC to share music and pictures. Why at that point will a person pay a minimum of a $1000 to buy a new computer to do the same tasks?

Microsoft really screwed up this time. I too was going to purchase an XBOX 360 for each room. Not anymore.

Friday, June 03, 2005 1:19 AM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

What if I don't want an XBOX?

With MediaPortal years ahead in functionality, and only months behind in usability, and the fact its free, I'll wait for the usability to catch up and jump ship.

Friday, June 03, 2005 9:35 AM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Thomas: We will all be sure to get you a boxed set of The Sopranos in High Def in one of the formats anyway!

I think if Microsoft can build on the Xbox 360, you will see an amazining amount of funtionally added, and of course the market base will already be rather good by the time all of this happens.

DRM is now part of the game, and when you think about Microsoft and DRM together, it will open newdoors on how we can *legally* use our content.

lefty4: The ability to do this is being built into the copy protection system being used in the disc's, it will not be considered illegal to do. :) Kaleidoscope got the bad end of the deal with CSS, with AACS Kaleidoscope could actually 100% legally put out the product and be back by mant other companies in the process. Through I don't want to think about the price of such a unit, current units are a bit out of most people's price range. While storage costs are going down, it will still take a beffy machine to hold a good amount of BD/HD content.

I really think you will find that the Cable/Sat companies will not be able to provide as full of a solution as Microsoft could offer. The solutons they will be able to precent will lock you into a saller amount of hardware and choices then what Microsoft could offer.

Mike: What if you do want an Xbox and just don't know it. ;)

MediaPortal is fantasic, but in the coming years will be more and more limited when it comes to playing protected media and streaming content to a device that might be able to handle that protected media.

Friday, June 03, 2005 10:20 AM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

I hope you are right about all this Chris, I really do.

DRM from End to End, from creation to consumption, DRM is here to stay. Any company/developer that doesn't embrace it is doomed to live on the fringe. Microsoft is one company that has the ability to provide the secure path that will give us our fair use and protect the creators IP at the same time. Intel is instituting DRM at the hardware level, Microsoft will be handling it at the OS level. Other companies and developers will be able to use this as a platform but they will be forced to adhere to the DRM.

Will DRM always be able to be cracked? of course it will, nothing is secure when it's in the hands of the enemy. It's going to become increasingly difficult and out of the reach for the average consumer.

Friday, June 03, 2005 4:56 PM by chrisl

# Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Microsoft XBox is competing with Microsoft Media Center for the living room. I still think Playstation 3 has the advantage....

Saturday, June 04, 2005 7:55 PM by TrackBack

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

DRM is the tool used by tech companies like Mocrosoft and Apple and by media companies like the record labels and the hollywood studios, to secure their role in this market for years to come. When you think about it with the Internet allowing new distribution methods, the labels and the studios are under a serious threat. The artist could in theory market his/her work directly to consumers and the need for these mediators could be significantly reduced. Of-course these smart guys realized that and decided to act before it is too late. They decided to lock their content until they find a way out of this plonter. Microsoft and Apple saw the opportunity and started to heavily invest in DRM and forged this alliance with the studios and the labels. They are simply helping one another to secure their role in this market. So what's wrong with that?
If you are asking this question your mind has been so thoroughly polluted that you are no longer able to know right from wrong. We should all remember that music and movies are not about the labels or the studios, they are about the artists and the fans. This is what's wrong with that! There can be a better future for artists and fans but Microsoft & Apple with their DRM plans are trying to prevent this future from happening. Imagine a world where an artist could sell his music to fans all over the world direct. In such a world selling a song for 10 cents will be more profitable for the artists than today's price of $1. Will the fans pay? Of-ocurse they will, DRM is not needed, fans consider it a privilege to support their favorite artists. This has already been proven by the iTunes music store (with a $1 price tag, imagine what happens with 10 cents...). So let me ask you all, should we the consumers silently be lead by these huge corporations to the dark ages? Is 2084 going to finally be Orwells 1984?

Friday, June 10, 2005 1:50 PM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Ok everyone. Listen up. Has anyone seen the price of some of this content lately? Its getting more and more expensive by the day. I cant afford all of this, which is why i think if they are going to charge me $60 bucks for something, i should be able to do what i want with it. I can see DRM'ed content being maybe $10-$25 but not $40-$70. Maybe im poor (which i am) or maybe im crazy (i hope im not) but i think that if things were affordable, people would buy it instead of copying it. Another thing i hate, Movies make millions, sometimes billions in a couple weeks when they come out, that MORE than covers the amount it took to make the thing, What more do they want. They shouldnt be complaining because there are people out there buying tickets to see the film, then people start buying the DVD's when they come out. So throw a big ol hissy fit when you lose a couple thousand from people makin copies of a movie for their friends.
Well, im tired, i better go. Bye Bye

(PS) I Think Microsoft Overcharges For Their Software!

Monday, June 13, 2005 8:46 AM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Ronen: what an idealistic tunnel like perception you have of the world

Such things already exist, and DRM does nothing to stop them. The record labels are trying to get compensation for their efforts. Just because I or you don't personally feel that this compensation is fair doesn't give you the right to steal from them. If you disagree with their methods, you should obtain music from other sources. Unfortunately, I think you'll find that a vast majority of the artists that you want to listen to made a decision about how their art is distributed that disagrees with your value system. TOO BAD FOR YOU. You can make the argument that the artists made a mistake. That the distribution, marketing and networking were not worth it. That, without the labels' help, just as many fans would have gotten access to and just as many (or more) artists would be successful. All of these may be valid points, but you'll have to convince the artists of that, as long as fans will pay the prices, the interests will protect their property. Until you convince the artists that they're getting ripped off, Microsoft and Apple are the only ones who are acting as reasonable mediators between the labels and the fans. And you can bet your bottom that their software will continue to support free, non DRMed media, so what's the big deal?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 5:34 PM by chrisl

# re: Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room

Thankfuly I am not the only one saying this. A new world order, when it comes to large media companies, is inevitable. Now even the New York Times writes about it.
You can find it at
Here is a quote:
"Their maneuvers - suing file-sharing networks or inserting "broadcast flags," which restrict copying and otherwise limit what media consumers can do with video content - aren't about trying to protect hoary business models; they're about keeping the wolves at bay."
"I think that the major media companies are trying to cement their control of media distribution and want to cut off competition in lots of forms," Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who argued the case for the Grokster side, said in an interview with Mad Penguin ( "So while they say that they are aiming to cut off piracy of their works, I think it's no accident that they are also striking out against technologies that can be used by anyone to create competing cultural products."

Saturday, July 02, 2005 2:49 PM by chrisl

# Xbox 360 Will NOT Kill Media Center

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# Why No HD-DVD Drive In Xbox 360?

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