Category Archives: 1367

Going Beyond The Enthusiast Market

Charlie Owen, a former Media Center team member wrote a post this
week about Media Center expanding its marketplace, specifically
going from
the current enthusiast market to a more mainstream market
.  Charlie analysis comes to the pretty simple
answer of It’s
possible, but highly unlikely at this point.”

I had previously come to this conclusion, but to me
the real question is “
will Microsoft attempt to develop for the
enthusiast market?”  Lucky for me,
Charlie replied to my comment with exactly what I was expecting

Charlie: “No. That’s because they have never done so. The enthusiast market is
always a subset of the overall market any product targets. Put another way:
Where the goal is making a profit you wouldn’t sacrifice a broad market
opportunity of 100 for the narrow enthusiast market of 10. Making a
Microsoft-sized profit is different than making a profit if you were a much
smaller company.”

In other words the future for Media Center is one or two
options.  Option 1: Microsoft stops
development of Media Center (very unlikely).  Option 2:
Microsoft transitions Media Center to a market which has the possibility to
create a “Microsoft-sized profit.” (Hint: TV on your PC)  Re-quoting
myself
from early this year, the days of Media Center being billed as the
do-it-all center of your home are over.

My opinion continues to be that Microsoft will focus more
and more on the Xbox
360 as the center of the home
.  The
benefits of the Xbox 360 over Media Center are almost endless from a business
perspective.  The massive amount of end
users (an unquestionable 30 million, with 20 million of them being Xbox Live
subscribers) means content providers are going to flock to the platform.  Microsoft can sit back and rake in yearly
recurring revenue from these 20 million Xbox Live subscribers along with the
massive amounts of licensing accessories and the Xbox 360 brand.  Media Center on the other hard makes
Microsoft absolutely no money as it is a part of the standard Windows SKU (eg.
No one except members of The Green Button ever purchased a Windows license just
to get Media Center).

There are still people holding out hope for Media Center to
become a platform for the home.  The
recent announcement that Dish
Network will not be shipping
their tuner anytime soon didn’t
surprise me one bit
.  Why would Dish
bother to continue with Media Center when it is pretty clear Microsoft is
moving away from the consumer they thought they were buying into?  This same concept is at play with Media
Center Extender’s.  There is still some
hope that Toshiba
will be releasing an Extender, but I think the concept
that most people miss is that whether it gets released or not means little in
the grand scheme of things.  If
Microsoft’s heart is not in providing a platform for the home, you can really
know going into your purchase that you’re going to end up disappointed at some
point.

The biggest question mark might be Windows Home Server.  For years I have said the concept of
including Media Center in Windows Home Server is pointless
and does nothing to expand the current market
.  If HP ditched Extender’s and CableCARD due to
poor sales, why exactly would they have the least bit of interest in shipping a
Media Center+Home Server box?  If OEMs
are not interested, why is Microsoft going to develop it?

Most people underestimate the OEMs when talking about Media
Center.  OEMs are really responsible for
Media Center from start to finish from a customer’s perspective.  HP and Dell have shown they have little
interest in Media Center by either discounting CableCARD PCs, killing off
Extender’s, and even in HPs case killing off their HT-styled z-series Media
Centers.  Dish
Network
and DIRECTV
are just as important and have shown that they are increasing less interested.

Microsoft’s latest attempt to make a market for Media Center
has been the custom integrator channel, and some have big
expectations
for what Microsoft might have in store.  Sadly most of the possibilities have already
been proven false, and based on what I’ve been told from those in the industry
interest in Media Center in the custom channel is dropping fast.  I’m interest to see how much longer Microsoft
attempts to push into the market.  With
their partner OEMs such as HP, Linksys, Dish Network pulling out these leaves
the custom OEMs like Niveus Media and Life|ware to pick up the slack.  Unfortunately there is only such much they
can do.  If Microsoft’s commitment in the
channel falls it might be the end of the custom market experiment.

So once again the question is what’s next.  Recently there have been some great new
bloggers
show up in the Media Center community with some great
suggestions.  I’m done with
suggestions.  Microsoft knows exactly
what we want, let’s not pretend they don’t. 
The issue is it is no longer in their best interest to pursue most of
it.  What’s next?  Who knows. 
All I want at this point is for Microsoft to publicly provide a roadmap
for what Media Center is to become.

Microsoft Focuses Media Center Marketing, Platform to Follow

The first sign of a business in trouble is when you must reinvent
yourself to stay alive.  Microsoft
might
not actually be reinventing Media Center, mostly becasue you can’t
reinvent something that you never actually defined a market for in the
first place, but they are finally attempting to delineate where they
see Media Center competing in such a growing marketplace (and that’s
not a
good thing for most reading this).

Media Center started as a method to watch TV on the PC.  Essentially it was marketed to college
students to cut down the number of devices in their dorm.  Then it grew up and Microsoft focused on getting
Media Center off the PC and onto the big screen.  Media Center 2004-2005 and Extenders helped
drive this concept.  Media Center was the
star of CES keynotes of the past focusing on the next-generation home.  Much of this is outlined in the Evolution
of Windows Media Center
that Microsoft just finished.

The video might have a few hidden messages that are hard to
catch, but I think they define Media Center’s future and show that
Microsoft has finally attempted to focus on a specific market.

image
(Microsoft presented this image at WinHEC)

 “TV on your PC” is
Microsoft’s new marketing talk for what Media Center is and does (hear
it from Media Center marketing PM Ben Reed here
~30 seconds in) .  Not whole home connected entertainment, not
Media Center in your living room, not Extenders, not high-end theaters, but “TV
on your PC.”  In other words, the days of
Media Center being billed as the do-it-all center of your home are over (except
for the custom market).

For the first time, Media Center officially has a market,
and while that is good news that Microsoft has finally defined who they are
developing for, it is bad news for most reading this post as you can now be
sure Media Center will never be the platform you have dreamed of.

Thinking about it, the signs have been developing over the
past months.  The lack
of Media Center at CES keynote
makes perfect sense if it is being billed as
just a way to watch TV on your PC.  No
need to make a big deal about that.  Microsoft
touting touch screen support in Windows 7 half has to do with them putting way
to much emphasis on touch in Windows 7 in general, but also helps them show off
using a kitchen PC for watching TV on. 
Why exactly do I need this in a product that is meant to be controlled
with a remote?  This was recently questioned on The
Green Button
and Engadget
HD’s most recent podcast
.  Mouse
clickable seekbar in Windows 7, yet again a sign of Media Center moving onto
the desktop and away from the TV.

I think Microsoft will continue to focus on the CEDIA
channel as well, which most likely means my fears of Microsoft developing new
cool features that are only available to OEMs is going to come true.  Niveus Media and Exceptional Innovation (Life|ware)
will likely see the majority of the attention. 
Smaller Media Center OEMs will start to fade away after being ignored by
Microsoft who hasn’t grasped the concept that all of the smaller OEMs serve the
exact same high-end customers as Niveus and Life|ware (examples include support
for 10
Extenders, 8 CableCARD tuners for only Niveus/Life|ware
).  I think we will see Microsoft heavily market
an appliances-like
device to these OEMs
(unclear if the functionality will be avaiable to the
masses, but I don’t see it marketed to them).

If there is a plus side (hard to think of it as
that) to this it would be in the form of much lower expectations.   Hopefully
I’m wrong, but this change could end Media Center as we know (or think we know)
it today.

Vista SP2 Doesn’t Support Blu-ray Playback

Due to a poorly worded article over at CNET I’ve seen a few
dozen people getting excited about Vista SP2 bringing “support
for Blu-ray drives,”
but everyone should take a quick step back and realize
Vista SP2 will add “support
for burning Blu-ray data discs”
but nothing involving Blu-ray Disc movie
playback.

So far Vista SP2 is basically a collection of previously
planned “Feature Packs” including the Storage
Feature Pack
(where Blu-ray burning comes from), and the Wireless Feature Pack.  My guess is that Microsoft is worried the
press behind Windows 7 is going to kick Vista sales to the curb so they want to
make sure they are keeping it current.

TV Pack Questions Answered by Charlie Owen

Charlie Owen will be answering
questions about the Media Center TV Pack
(Fiji) as soon as Microsoft makes
the official announcements, so if you have any questions about things that may
have been rumored now would be the time to submit them.

I will also finally be able to talk in depth about stuff
including what is in/out of Fiji, the possibility of a second Media Center
release, and Windows 7 around this timeframe. 
If you have questions or comments for me to get a non-Microsoft response
let me know.

Microsoft Quietly Plans “Windows Media Center TV Pack”

Microsoft made plans public on Friday in Japan (late Thursday in US) for the release of a product called “Windows Media Center TV Pack” as a part of
their increased TV signal support
in the country.

image

What is the Windows Media Center TV Pack?  Well, that’s up to the translated press
release to tell us (Original
press release
).

  • Google
    Translation
    : TV Pack….“Provide PC
    manufacturers, PC manufacturers from terrestrial digital broadcasting is PC
    compatible with Windows Vista(1)”

    (1) Note: and provide the package, Windows Update, and by
extension will not only provide.

  • Yahoo
    Babelfish Translation
    : TV Pack…“PC
    manufacturer, from the PC manufacturer Windows Vista loading PC which
    corresponds to terrestrial digital broadcast, it is the schedule which in the
    future is shipped(1)”

    (1) Note: offer in package edition and offer etc only of the
extended function with Windows Update there is no.

Any Japanese speaking readers who can translate would be
much appreciated (especially the text in the image).  Seeing as
Fiji would be the next logical release
for Media Center the question is how
does this “TV Pack” relate to Fiji?  Does it apply only to Japan?  Does it provide support for other TV signals?

Introducing Media Center Week!

I’m proud to introduce this week as my randomly designated Media Center Week!  Get those F5 keys ready, because I’ve complied
story after story, post after post and you’re not going to want to close your
web browser for this one.

Already today we have news that Dish
Network might be on its way to Media Center
, and coming up tonight you
might just learn that Media Center is about to increase it’s TV signal presence
outside the US (no, really!)

If you have any specific questions that you would like
answered as a part of Media Center Week, please reply to this thread and I’ll
pick a few to cover.

Fiji Media Center Beta Inches Closer

We
have been waiting for Microsoft to open the beta for Fiji, the suspected
codename for the next version of Media Center for well over a year now.  I
first posted about it
in March of last year
, with invites first
opening just a month after that
, and now it appears we may finally have
taken a step forward.

Users
(who shall remain nameless, because I edited them out) at The Green Button are
reporting that they have received
e-mails from Microsoft Connect
.  If true, this would be the first step
to finally getting something in our hands to play with (under NDA of course).

This
release will bring DIRECTV support
among other unannounced features.  I had expected it to include HD DVD
support, but I wouldn’t count
on that any more
.  Other features have been kept under tight wraps,
though I’ve got a few in mind that I’m rather sure will be there.

As
the beta has still not officially started, anyone have predictions for what
features will be added?

Update: Engadget
HD points to a user
who leaked their invite for the DIRECTV beta (bad move,
considering Engadget published their first name!).

image

Microsoft Introduces $10,000 Digital Home Makeover Contest

To celebrate the consumer availability of new Extenders for
Windows Media Center, the Windows Media Center team is today unveiling a
Digital Home Makeover Contest.  For one lucky winner, the makeover team
will transform their disconnected digital lifestyle into a home entertainment
dream with a prize package totaling up to $10,000.

The Digital Home Makeover Contest is designed to address the
real challenges people face when adopting today’s digital lifestyle. Today’s
consumers have a wide variety of digital content in their homes—thousands of
digital pictures, MP3’s, TV shows and movies— and homes may have dozens of
devices which allow people to interact with and enjoy this content. But
wouldn’t it be nice if digital media could be seamlessly viewed and accessible
across all these devices?   

With a prize package that will include a new PC with Windows Media Center,
Extenders for Windows Media Center, flat screen television and video-capable
wireless home networking, the winner of the Digital Home Makeover Contest will
receive what they need to take control of connecting their entertainment
options and start enjoying content from room to room, anywhere in the house.
Microsoft is accepting entries in the form of two minute videos that illustrate
a contestant’s disconnected digital lifestyle and why they need a digital home
makeover.  Entries will be accepted through April 18 at http://www.windowsmediacenter.com/contest
and the winner of the Digital Home Makeover will be announced by April 30,
2008. 

“Connected entertainment is all about enjoying high quality digital content
both on your PC and on TV sets around the home,” said Ron Pessner, general
manager for Windows Media Center. “We are excited to bring that vision to life
today with the technology behind Windows Media Center and Media Center
Extenders.”

More information about the contest and new Extenders for
Windows Media Center is available at http://www.windowsmediacenter.com

HomeSeer Gets Vista Sidebar Gadget

tenWare Software has developed a HomeSeer
Sidebar Gadget
to display information about Devices that also allows running of Events
(macros) from a HomeSeer server.  For
those who don’t know, HomeSeer is PC-based home automation software that also has
a Media Center plug-in available.

While the UI leaves a bit to be desired, the basic
functionality is there.  If you are
running Vista on multiple machines in your home, this Gadget will give
you control over your home without opening Media Center or a web-based UI.

image

Short Bits: Advertising, MAINGEAR, Ultimate PC

Microsoft has started another round of Media Center/Extender
online advertising on sites like The Green Button, AVS Forum, and more.  It is nice to see Microsoft advertising more,
but the point still stands that the people who need to know about these technologies
are not being informed.  Microsoft needs
to wrap up Xbox 360, Zune, Media Center, Extenders, and Vista into a huge
advertising campaign directed at people who are not already visiting informed
web sources.

I posted last night about
MAINGEAR’s new Media Center PC
that uses the beautiful Omaura TF8 chassis.  What is interesting about this is that it has
a very low price (~$1400) while still offering integrated features like Blu-ray.  Wallace
from MAINGEAR
says that CableCARD is coming, so this might be a company to
watch out for.

Microsoft launched a new website dedicated to showing off “Ultimate”
PC setups with Vista as the center.  Derek Flickinger
shows off his Ultimate Home Theater Blueprints
(Alt) on the new site, showcasing
everything from Extenders to a McIntosh MX119.