Your Perfect v2 Extender is…

What?  Give the other
v2 Extender partners what they need to know in order to develop a product that
you will be buying.  Quickly, here is what I see as a few problems that need to
be improved on.

Wireless option, not default.  I’ve got CAT5 throughout the house, no need
for wireless.  Not the mention that
Microsoft suggests a hardwired connection for the best experience.

Gigabit.  Why
not?  10/100 might be fast enough, but
especially on higher priced models people just expect it now.

Looks.  It’s got to be
pretty, for whatever reason that attracts people.  I don’t want much, but it doesn’t seem that
most like the options out there now.

File format support. 
Most chipsets that are going to be involved already support decoding of
VC-1, H.264, and MPEG-4 ASP.  Please make
sure different containers like AVI, MP4, and MKV are supported.

DVD streaming.  I
think this is a mix between Microsoft on the platform side and the hardware
partners.  Anyway, know that your
customers want it!  VIDEO_TS playback at
a reasonable price and I’ll sell you a couple hundred in the first few hours.

Price.  Standalone
Extenders without DVD drives should be $150-$200 (clear cheaper, if it can be
done).  I think $150 is really the sweet-spot where you get people to purchase multiple units.  Once you hit $300 a DVD drive
better be included, else very few are going be see it as a value over other

Anyone got anything else?  A knock out option would be to have a cheap Chinese manufacturer do an HD DVD (or Blu-ray) player with an Extender.

28 thoughts on “Your Perfect v2 Extender is…

  1. A web browser would be nice. Nothing fancy.. Just something to check out the news, wikipedia, ect. And it should operate like the keyboard part of the xbox360.. almost like a blade so that I don’t have to exit out of the extender (live tv) to look something up.

  2. Ditch the Wireless-N if doing so will save money.

    Support streaming DVD.

    Get the price down.

    (They are making a push towards “professional installers”, but they are also emphasizing Wireless-N instead of wired? That doesn’t make sense…)

  3. $300+ ???? I think Microsoft’s mistake was to partner with *networking* manufacturers who have no experience in building retail ready/mass market electronics. You might argue that Cisco has the experience but I would argue its not the same thing as a Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony or Toshiba. Those guys offer full 5.1 systems with upscaling DVD for the same amount of money. Frankly, I don’t know what Cisco and Dlink were smoking when they set those prices.

    To salvage this, I can only hope that Microsoft finds away to get Toshiba to offer extender technology in their HD DVD players. At least there you might not feel cheated with a $300+ price tag.

  4. I would like wireless to be optional.

    I would like to have a multi-card reader for different digital camera storage formats to view photos in a slide show.

  5. Jeffrey, I think these devices all have USB ports with the intend use to read off USB drives. I’d imagine you could always plug in a usb card reader to do what you want. It will probably be limited to jpeg (nothing fancy like RAW images).

  6. 10/100 nic, unless someone can explain how gigabit would help an extender. (faster buffering maybe?)

    Wireless optional. I don’t need it personally.

    Full support for codecs. Divx/Xvid a must.

    Something simple and elegant looking. The D-Link looks like cr@p in my opinion. The Linksys is more my style. I love the Niveus. Though, I won’t be buying any of these at their current price point.

    Price is my biggest thing. I would agree that $150 should be reasonable for a diskless media streamer without wireless. Anything above $200 and forget it, I’d rather have an X360 with the gaming support.

  7. On USB, since Extenders work by a remote session on the PC it would be useless under the Extender. Now, if the OEM provides another OS underneath then USB devices could be used. Same concept applies to the card reader.

    On Gigabit, like Aaron says and I noted above it isn’t really needed for streaming video, but still many expect it in a product. It is not always about what’s “needed”, it is public perception. Gigabit has been pushed to them in other devices, much like wireless so it is expected. Under that same concept it is a can’t win. Include it for extra cost, then people want it gone. Don’t include it, then people ask why they are paying so much for so little.

  8. Chris, I hear you on the gigabit thing. Realistically the price difference between 100 and 1000 ethernet hardware probably isn’t more than a couple dollars. Might sell a few more units with the gigabit.

  9. It’s a never freezing MCE that also:
    – drops off my daughter at school
    – does the laundry
    – improves my golf score
    – detects TCA taint in my wine collection
    – gives me the winning lottery numbers
    – oh yeah – Msft actually pays me for having it

    Also – the guy that suggests putting a web browser on it – that’s what your desktop/laptop is for!

  10. Since you mentioned the word “perfect” how about doing three things with 6 types of discs:

    1. Play locally on extender
    2. Upload from extender to server
    3. Stream from server back to any extender

    The 6 types of discs? Oh yes, they are CD, DVD, Bluray, HDDVD, DVDA, and SACD. I know I know, this would never get past the RIAA and MPAA, but since Microsoft has locked down the MCE ecosystem enough to allow one to record endless amounts of HBO in HD, why can’t they expand the system to play/archive/stream any shiny 5 inch disc you may have?

    P.S. Of the 18 things I would like the extender to do (3 things for 6 types of discs), it currently only does 2 (play DVD and CD locally).

  11. It’s a funny, you say offer gigabit because people expect it due to perception yet you turn around and say make wireless optional. For the average consumer, of which *none* of us are, wireless is what they know while probably only 1 out of every 50 people walking through the doors of BestBuy would have any idea that networks even ran at different speeds. If you’re talking public perception then no one cares about gigabit.

    I can’t stress this enough, *none* of us here are average consumers, we are hobbyists, enthusiasts, nerds, some may say early adopters. Your average consumer gets confused between a RJ45 and RJ11, uses “memory” to describe their hard drive, thinks the iPod was the first MP3 player and constantly say “I want to change my screen saver” when they mean their desktop wallpaper. They’re not dumb, they just don’t get a tingle when it comes to computers. That being said there are really two “perfect extenders”:

    The Perfect Extender for the Average Consumer…

    – looks great sitting in the entertainment room and by great I mean Apple great or Crate & Barrel great,

    – has free 24/7 tech support,

    – has great packaging,

    – is as easy or easier to setup than a Tivo,

    – just works. The average consumer doesn’t care *at all* if it’s gigabit or wireless-n or has a SATA drive or on-board memory for buffering or which codecs it supports. The more specs a consumer sees the more they think, “Shit, do I have one of those? Does that mean I need something or that it comes in the box?”

    The Perfect Extender for Me…

    – optional wireless,

    – dead quiet,

    – dead sexy, I’m tired of ugly computer equipment, and no, blinking LED’s are not cool,

    – small,

    – $149,

    – optional ability to buy codec packs. The big issue with codecs is licensing. I’m sure Microsoft and third parties would *love* to offer more codecs but I’m sure the licensing fees are close to prohibitive. If you’ve ever worked in manufacturing you know that even 5 cents has a huge impact to the bottom line.

  12. The biggest thing isn’t the extender’s fault, it is MCE, and that’s DVD streaming from a DVD changer. I don’t care about single disc streaming, I want full changer support. Let me hook up a 400 disc changer like Sony’s and use MCE as a movie server. A changer is a much more attractive solution to me than ripping all my movies to a hard drive. If I could do this I’d gladly pay the full $350 per extender.

    Drop the wireless if it makes it cheaper – I ran cat5 specifically to get reliable video streaming. I haven’t gotten consistent wireless performance so far, and don’t trust even wireless N to be consistent enough.

    I really don’t think the announced prices are that bad. Even without streaming DVD support I’ll pay $250 for a quieter alternative to my X360. Hopefully these new extenders will street for a little lower than full retail and I’ll consider getting one.

    I’d pay $400 if it’s got a next gen drive in it. I know that’s a lot cheaper than they could pull off right now, but I’m still hoping one of the HD formats “wins”, and I won’t put money into either format until that happens (or it becomes crystal clear that they will both survive indefinitely). I haven’t even bought the HD-DVD 360 add-on drive.

    Drop support for iPods et al. If it’s on my iPod, it’s on my MCE server.

  13. Darryl – I think the idea of using a changer is much more realistic than my idea of ripping all the discs to a HD, especially now that HDDVD & Bluray will take up so much space.

    Chris – I thought that Niveus was working on a proprietary solution to stream from a changer, any update on that?

    I fully acknowledge the DRM issues with ripping, but what issue is there with streaming from a changer, the disc is in there!!

    Also, there are commercial DVD changers that have dual disc drives, so that could help with whole house streaming (so 2 people can use the same changer at a time).

    There shouldn’t be anything real complicated about building an DVD/Bluray/HDDVD/SACD/DVDA changer as all the parts are readily available, just need to put it together and allow for streaming.

  14. Price. Plain and simple. They want to charge the same amount (or close to) for a standalone extender as they are for a 360. Yes, they should be quieter, but how many consumers are going to choose those over a 360 at the same price point?

    My question is: why are they so expensive? Is MS really charging DLink and Linksys that much for use of the Pika platform? Or are they just hoping for a huge profit from early adopters?

    I definitely agree with JohnCz about the vendor selection. If MS really wants to sell these things to the average consumer, they’re going to need Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, etc. to get behind it.

    As others have said, I too would like wireless to be optional, VIDEO_TS streaming (or even changer streaming), and a next-gen drive. Regardless of those things, though, until someone makes a standalone extender in the <$150 range, I plan on sticking with the 360.

  15. Shawn Oster: Unless this has changed, Microsoft officially only supports a single Extender on wireless. Might have changed with N, but at most now it is two Extenders.

    Also, as I have said many many times I don’t think Media Center will ever really succeed in the regular consumer market. To me, it is for people who want more, basically us. You can have a successful product this way, and it can also drive it into a more “mass” setting, but I don’t see that happening based on what Microsoft has done so far.

    Despite the price of a whole setup, Microsoft has decided not to market Media Center at all. There is no reason for an average consumer to even know what Media Center is. I have always felt that by the time Microsoft understands this, everyone else will already have streaming to their STBs and multi-room viewing.

    Sipester: I believe the Niveus thing got snipped by the MPAA.

  16. Re: Gigabit… connecting a 10/100 adapter into my gigabit network forces me to turn off jumbo frames to get good interoperability. Of course turning off jumbo frames significantly reduces the utility of having a gigabit network in the first place.

  17. I don’t have a perfect extender idea. I would love a remote desktop option back to the MCE PC from the extender though. So there’s no need to get up or install a browser/(anything else under the sun) on the extender itself.

    Im not too impressed by these. I’ll keep on trucking with my 2 360s and 2 Vista enabled Mac Minis..

  18. hardwired. ideally gigabit.
    surround sound amp 5.1+
    $200-300, if it elimantes needing a receiver/amp. $150 if no amp.
    Small. quiet/silent

  19. All I want is a small plug-n-play wired fanless box that I can velcro to the back of all my TVs which replicates what MCE does natively. At $150 I’d buy a basketfull.
    It’s surely a complete design/marketing no brainer, so I’m left both puzzled and disappointed after the long wait by chunky, wire(use)less, non-DVD streaming and unrealistically priced devices.

  20. The perfect extender would be one that was built into the TV and it supported streaming DVD’s.. Divx/Xvid support would be the over the top bonus.

    Is it just me or does offering a extender with out a DVD drive defeat the purpose of what a mediacenter is if you are not going to allow a dvd to be streamed from the mediacenter.

    I dont see how the Linksys or the Dlink are worth more then $150-$200 when you can purchase a 360 for $280.00.. I know the 360’s are loud, but there are ways to help with that problem. I keep them all in a central location using IR repeaters to control them.

  21. How about a cheap (<$200) extender that simply had an ATSC tuner + ethernet jack and component and composite out. This box would also be NTIA certified so it would quality for the upcoming rebate. The reason? I already have an xbox360 for my LCD in the living room. I would love a low cost (and subsidized) box that did downscaling to 480i/p that I could use on my old school TVs in my basement, garage, etc.

  22. Both PAL and NTSC playback would be nice, also streaming ISO’s.

    I have the V1 Linksys extender, and although it’s “ok”, it rarely gets used now because the picture quality is not that flash, and I have my DVD’s as ISO files…

    DTS optical out would be a bonus too…



  23. My perfect v2 Extender is….Softsled. The mere fact that all the plumbing is there, and yet I can’t have two Vista MCs talk to each other is rather stupid.

    This whole talk of extenders and the new pica chip and what not reeks of more “money” than innovation. They just want to sell more boxes tot he consumer than provide them with an ability to use the boxes they already have.

    The average home now has atleast two PCs (if not more. I’m an exception, I have 11), and it just doesn’t compute that you can add a tuner to one box, and not be able to see that from the other machine, when it would be relatively simple to enable this over RDP. If an XBox can do it, a Vista PC as an extender to another Vista PC can do it better.

    However, no revenue would be generated in this case, if Microsoft were to release Softsled. I guess that’s why it has not been released. 🙂

  24. I thought for sure DLink and Linksys would have 1080p support on their new extenders. This is a big issue for me. All of my TV’s are 1080p and I want to see my digital photos in a 1:1 pixel format 1920X1080 as I took them with my camera. I was also planning on getting one of the new DV Camcorders that will actually record at 1080p and not just the CMOS sensor in that format, more and more consumer 1080p devices are coming out why can’t a V2 extender be one of them. People are using these for more than just TV.

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