Does Home Server & Media Center Mean a Connected Future?
Preface: Before you read
this please try and get in the right mindset.
Microsoft doesn’t care about what anyone reading this blog wants. They don’t care what I want either. It is a hard truth to take, but that’s a
fact. They will say that they listen to
all requests, and that’s true, they do.
What they don’t do is make any sort of business decision (translation,
features) based on my ramblings, The Green Button, Engadget, or anyone else. They don’t make Media Center for “us”,
and before anyone can start to understand the points I try and make about
Windows Home Server you have to realize this.
You also have to understand that Media Center has not taken the market
by storm, and that six years into it the vision simply isn’t working to achieve
the goal Microsoft originally set out achieve (hints shift in marketing). Knowing this, please continue.
Note: I don’t work for
Microsoft, this post reflects my personal opinion.
Drawbaugh has an excellent post on what he perceives to be the future of
Windows Media Center, and that’s its integration with Windows Home
Server. Ben’s post is excellent, running
down a logical path of what Microsoft should do with the assets they currently
have. You take Windows Media Center and
integrate it with Windows Home Server, sell it for $500 and users can add
tuners later. Add in Live Mesh, Zune HD
syncing, and really connect the dots for a truly logical integrated product.
Now, maybe it is because I’ve been following Media Center a
bit longer than Ben, but why all the sudden is Microsoft going to “get it” and
integrate everything in the logical manor it should be? Why does the introduction of Windows Home
Server mean everything will “just work?”
Here’s the deal. It
is clear to me that Microsoft’s shift in customer marketing means the concept
of a whole home connected device with Media Center as its core isn’t
working. Why else would Microsoft shift
to pushing “TV
on your PC?” It just doesn’t make
sense to me that Microsoft would shift the culture and marketing of Media
Center, and then turn around and integrate everything the way it should be. You can see the shift in their marketing as well.
- 2007/early 2008: "Windows Media Center turns the home PC into the ultimate connected entertainment hub and is available in every copy of Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate."
- Today: "...builds on Microsoft’s goal to create a consistent experience on the PC for consumers to easily enjoy the entertainment of greatest interest to them."
I’ve said for years that I
don’t see the market value in Home Server mixed with Media Center. I consistently get crap for this, but that’s
because everyone reading this wants exactly what I say doesn’t make sense to
produce, or rather what will not help Media Center in the marketplace. How many
people here are not using Media Center strictly because it requires them to run
two separate PCs in their home? How many
sales are lost because of the current infrastructure? How many sales do you gain by integrating the
two? Have you opened up a significantly
new market by doing so? I can’t come up
with any answers that benefit Media Center from these questions.
If Microsoft is having trouble pushing Media Center in homes
for whole home connected entertainment, the solution is not to integrate it
with a product that even fewer people understand (a “Home Server”). The solution is actually to change paths and
try something completely different. Sometimes
redefining a product is needed to keep it alive.
So does this mean I don’t think Microsoft will integrate
Media Center with Home Server? No, I
think the opposite. Last year I got a
tip that something
is coming as a “headless” device, and I haven’t heard anything to say that
has gone away. It would be perfectly
fine to suggest anything “headless” that comes out of Microsoft would be based
on Home Server.
So I’ve established that I think a Home Server with Media
Center integration will happen, and at the same time that the product will not
have a significant amount of mass market value over that of the current model. Microsoft’s future for connected platforms
does include exactly what they say it will.
The “3 screens,” which spans the PC, the phone, and the TV. The way I see it PC = Windows 7, Phone =
Windows Phone (aka Windows Mobile), TV = Xbox 360. I don’t see any need for Media Center as a
whole home device in their grand vision, which is why I’m questioning the concept of Microsoft getting things right just by the
inclusion of Media Center into Home Server.
Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but given the way
things have been going, especially with Extenders (which in the case of a
headless device are key), I don’t see such a product making any impact in the
marketplace. More so, I don’t see
Microsoft investing the time to use Media Center as the core for the home. Media Center isn’t dying, it isn’t coming out
of Windows, but I continue to think the focus will shift. Microsoft will still work with partners on
Extenders (I’ve been assured of this), but they will still release products and
features that forget these Extender’s even existed. They will connect your life, but they will
not connect your life using Media Center.
What is your opinion?