File Format/Codec Support Very Important in Convergence Devices
at EngadgetHD asks if people want PC’s in their livings rooms, seeing as
HP just dropped their HTPC-line I posed the question this morning.
The first commenter on EngadgetHD replied to Ben’s notion
that “most people want their home theater
experiences to be drop dead simple” with “I think that's what TiVo does. It handles limited formats, but
that's all "most people" need.”
This is a critical problem that most people don’t seem to
understand. Limited formats is not “all
most people need,” in fact, they need the exact opposite. The problem with all of these devices is that
they can’t play the random files people download online. I’m not talking about pirated content, just
the little stupid clips that have now made YouTube and Google Video what they
are. And while they are starting to
overtake online video, there is still a ton of video in dozens of other codec’s
and file formats out there.
This is a huge problem!
People don’t care how the video is encoded, they just want to play it.
Right now, they can’t do this.
The Xbox 360 supports limited formats.
TiVo (HMO) supports limited formats.
Apple TV supports limited formats.
Despite these companies’ ideas and concepts that limited codec support
is all people need, it is the first way to kill your product from ever being
popular (v1 Extenders would have been a hell of a lot more popular had they
supported other formats, I guarantee it).
All of these devices need to be able to decode as many
formats as possible to make the user experience better and more integrated. The concept of these devices is that you can
play the content on your PC in your living room. Right now if I download some random DivX clip
I can’t play it on the Xbox 360. I can’t
play it on a TiVo (HMO). I can’t play it
on Apple TV. All of these devices have failed to do what the average consumer is
buying them for.
If any of these companies want to push a good solution, it
needs to support as many codec’s as possible.
And before someone replies with that fact that you can use Transcode 360
or like, that’s not the point.
Out-of-box video playback play is.
We can hack almost anything and get it to play the content, but that’s
no way to move into the average consumer’s home. XMBC is a great solution, but telling people
to go rent a specific Xbox title to soft-mod their Xbox is not. Telling people that to play XviD on Apple TV
you have to strip it down to OS X underneath is not either.
Support as many file formats and codec’s as possible in your
devices and have a much better chance of making it into my living room. For Microsoft specially, it would be nice to
have a product that lives up to the “Media Center Extender” name. You know, actually being able to “extend” the
Media Center options I have no my PC!
No devices will be able to support all the codec’s in the
word, there are just too many of them.
However, you must support the following in your product at both SD and
HD resolutions. MPEG-1, MPEG-2, WMV7,
WMV8, WMV9 (VC-1), MPEG-4 ASP (DivX, XviD, Nero Digital), MPEG-4 AVC (H.264).
Now, it’s worth saying that there are a few devices out
there that play most, if not all, of these formats. However, I choose to include Xbox 360 (Media
Center Extender), TiVo HMO, and Apple TV because these are integrated
solutions. Other standalone devices
generally have a lackluster UI which also kills the consumer experience.