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.