Microsoft Rejuvenates Media Center at CEDIA
It is no secret that I don’t agree with all the choices
Microsoft makes with regards to Media Center, however I still believe that it
is a fantastic product. Microsoft
doesn’t seem to see the potential that it has though. Despite this and with a few exceptions, CEDIA
has shown me that Microsoft still has a great interest in Media Center. The products and announcements that have come
out in last week finally have Media Center heading back in the right direction
(well, unless you don’t live in the US).
Just one side note, CEDIA is an expo for custom installers, products,
and services. Therefore the prices of many of the new products represent
that market and not the perspective of the average consumer.
Starting off with Media Center Extenders, Microsoft
announced with their partners that they will indeed support DivX and Xvid
(MPEG-4 ASP, H.264 should also be supported). I have
noted that they should be able to for over a year now, and I’m very glad
that it both came to life and that Microsoft to clearly pushing the fact that
they do support third party codecs. The only problem I have with the
announcement was nothing was said about DVD
streaming, so right now it appears that didn’t make the cut. This is
really the last piece of the puzzle for the Media Center ecosystem, but all in
all I’m excited about the new offerings from Linksys,
Niveus Media. DVD streaming would be a key feature to put Media
Center over the top of any other solution out there. It still needs to happen, and at the least we
need a public statement from Microsoft on why it hasn’t yet. I will continue to blog about and push for
the addition of DVD streaming, which always could happen via a software update.
was the next big topic at CEDIA, with Microsoft announcing support for up
to four CableCARD tuners in Vista Media Center. I
criticized Microsoft for only launching this for the custom installer market,
mainly because it is another slap in the face to everyone who has been
supporting Media Center for the last five years. So many non-supported
upgrades and products as time has passed, this one really pissed me off.
I’ve been trying to justify the reasoning in my mind, and I can understand why
Microsoft started here, but it’s just unfortunate that they have failed at so
many other Media Center related upgrades this is just icing on the cake.
The only good part about this is that it can be changed in the future, and
maybe when it is the cost of four tuners will not be ~$1,200 as it is
today. Once again, bad decision on Microsoft part but I’ll give them a
year to fix it as prices drop on Digital Cable Tuners. Now, I don’t own a
CableCARD PC so I understand that those who do might have different
feelings. Let me know what you think. If you could get them added
to your machine, would you right now with the cost of tuners so high? At
$1,200 for the tuners alone I can understand why they wanted to start with the
custom installer market. Most important out of this whole situation,
Microsoft officially supports four tuners within Media Center after five
years. Just them finally deciding it was
needed was a relief. For Media Center to
be considered a whole home solution (in other words, for people to feel like
they should spend money for Extenders), it needs to support these four tuners.
There were plenty of hardware announcements at CEDIA too, led by
Niveus Media and Exceptional
Both of these companies are really showing the power of the Media Center
platform with custom hardware and software solutions. Russound,
Computers also announced new Media Center products geared toward custom
Lastly, Microsoft is making an effort to provide additional
content and value to enhance Media Center. Among the top pickups is WebGuide,
which Microsoft will now be providing for free. It will be interested
now that Doug works for Microsoft what becomes of WebGuide. Will
Microsoft kill it off, or is there something else in the picture?
TV is also coming to Media Center with an upcoming plug-in that Microsoft
will launch this month at DigitalLife in New York. A very interesting
idea that, I assume, will include ad supported content from major providers (in
the US). I personally like this concept more than a paid service, most of
which have failed at this point. Stay tuned for more around September 27.
The new features and hardware upgrades where not actually
why I feel that this year’s CEDIA has revived Media Center. The reason is
because of the press. I have never seen more coverage of Media Center, ever.
CE Pro covered CEDIA fantastically,
the large blogs had multiple posts about the related announcements with people
actually commenting and providing feedback. The Extender announcement made it
on to the frontpage of Digg and got great feedback there to.
Microsoft has failed to advertise Media Center, but getting people excited on
the web is very important. Millions learned about Media Center and
Extenders through this coverage and getting positive feedback both excites and
encourages people to research the product and give it a chance. Microsoft
still has some work to do, but I think CEDIA is the best showing that Microsoft
has ever been able to pull off.
Do you think that the events this past week at CEDIA have
rejuvenated Media Center? Please vote in the poll and leave a comment if
you have something to say.
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