Over the past week I have got a great
amount of feedback (more
from my question about switch
to Vista Media Center
First of all,
I would like to thank everyone who has commented.
Reactions are all over the board to this
From people who will switch
right out of the gate, to those waiting for the dust to settle, to those who
see no point in an upgrade, and those who think it’s time to move on to another
I have mixed views about Vista Media
Center, keep reading to
see what they are!
PVR/CableCARD: CableCARD is--without a doubt--the reason to
upgrade to Vista Media Center. Native digital cable support, native HDTV
support. However, a common problem
however is that CableCARD’s are a technology only available within the United States. Those outside of the states have yet to see
any additional advances for Media
Center being used as a
PVR. There is no addition DVB support,
no MHEG support, no DAB support. Those
in the US don’t have to
worry about these, but basically broadcasts outside of the US use different technologies then those inside
of the US. We can all thank the FCC for wanting another
“standard” for the US
We all know that only OEM systems are getting CableCARD,
which is a real drag. Not much to say
about this though, I’ve said before it’s CableLabs way or the Highway. I would much rather see CableCARD support
EPG/Guide: There are several enhancements in the EPG,
the one everyone wants to the “mini-guide” which has been common to STB’s for
years now. Most people however, do not
see this as something that they are dieing to have.
Extenders: This is one of the biggest reasons not to
upgrade to Vista Media Center. v1 Extenders including the Linksys WMCE54AG,
HP x5400, and Xbox v1 title are no longer supported under Vista. This is a huge problem for people who have
spent $300 a-pop on either the Linksys or HP Extenders. It’s going to be very costly to upgrade Extenders.
v2 Extenders are on the way, codenamed
Pika, and these better support additional formats like DivX and XviD or I’m
going to feel even worse about not being able to use v1 Extenders. If you are going to take away something, the
second offering better provide what was lacking in the first-generation, along
with a lower price tag (which, I believe they will).
UI: I’m getting used to the UI more-and-more, but
you just don’t mess with success like this.
Let’s not forget about the Media Center 2005 UI was actually an “award
winning” design. The UI is ok, but
nothing special. I like the MCE 2005 UI
over the Vista UI, plain-and-simple.
Lack of Features: Vista
just doesn’t seem like its being enough to the table, to make up for what it
dropped. Windows Messenger support has
been dropped, Caller ID support has been dropped, v1 Extenders have been
dropped, the UI we all love has been dropped, even with RC2 stability is not
what it should be, and the list keeps going.
Microsoft had a big chance with Vista
to bring together all of the features it has lacked for the past four
years. I can’t say that they have done
this. First up, DVD
Streaming something that I have talked about several times here. I have said that Microsoft has the technology
to do it, but for whatever reason Vista
doesn’t support it. While I don’t know
everything about it, there
is an public interview posted that talks about it. With Sony's
DVD Changer selling for $300 Microsoft missed the whole idea here. If DVD Streaming to Extenders can’t be done,
I can surely understand that. However,
one thing that everyone would like to know from Microsoft is why.
This brings me to another point which has nothing to do with
Vista, but Microsoft needs more transparency with its Media Center
team. Since Matt Goyer has left Micosoft,
it’s been very quite from the other Media Center bloggers. Of course, working on Vista
should be Microsoft’s top priority, but anyone from the Media Center
team reading this I would like to see you start blogging. Media
Center has a growing
community behind it, we need transparency with some of the issues and features
that we (the community) feel you should be providing.
Back to Vista
Windows Messenger support being dropped kind of sucked. We all know that Windows Messenger itself was
dropped from Vista, but wasn’t the implied use
of that fancy Microsoft
Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition for Messenger? It might have just been me, but it was a
Called ID support has been dropped, which I can kind of
understand—except—why drop it? Even if
it’s not used by many did the system change so much that it would have taken a
ton of work to get it going again?
Somehow, I doubt. Those who need
Caller ID should now check out mceTapiRex
which also support Skype.
“Softsled”: On December 4, 2004, Paul Thurrott
let the world know that Microsoft had a software-based Extender for PC’s. Yet to see the light of day, there are
several conspiracy theories why it has not be released. Frankly, I don’t care what Microsoft reasons
are they need to release it or open up development for the platform so it could
be done by a third party. Beyond TV Link does
this for SnapStream’s product, I believe Myth TV has a like solution, and Sage TV Placeshifter does it
for Sage products. Those are all of
Microsoft’s main competitors. There isn’t
much to say about this, but Microsoft needs to do something here. I have seen many people dump Media Center
for this very feature.
Overall: Anyway, Keep
bring your reasons for upgrade or not upgrading! I know I left out some things above, and I’ll
add too it below this when I think of other reasons why I will be upgrading (or
Right now, I’m sticking with MCE 2005. I’m waiting to see what DIRECTV
Support is going to look like. If it’s
not above what cable can offer, I will be buying a new PC with Vista and CableCARD.
I’m going to wait for that to play out, and by then maybe we can find
out more about “Softsled” and DVD Streaming and I will be sold 100% on Vista Media
Center again. I’m still locked on Media Center,
other packages just can not compete from my point of view until they either
support CableCARD or DIRECTV.
Center still has the most
potential, and at the same time is still very far behind. Anyone want to get me a job at Microsoft and
I’ll be the transparency for the team??
Additions: Ian pointed
out that Media Center Markup Language (MCML) could allow development of a Windows
Messenger Live plug-in. One thing I didn’t
bring up above is that Media Center development for third parties has been much
improved in Vista. Plug-ins can now be much richer then the HTML
ones from past versions of Media
Peter points out that
photo viewing and browsing though Media
Center is much
improved. With tags, EXIF data, and
more. My Pictures in MCE 2005 is rather
limited, just allowing folder browsing.
Big upgrade in Vista
Brian adds that no matter what the difference in the MCE 2005 UI vs. Vista Media Center UI, it's still one of the top UI designs in any CE-type device. Anyone who has ever seen a cable DVR knows this (minus those using TiVo)
Fleischman asks: Why Aren’t People More Excited About Media Center?
Update 2: Matt Goyer has replied to some of my points with two great posts...
Why Media Center does not stream DVDs
Does eHome get blogging?