Joe Belfiore Addresses Media Center & v2 Extender Concerns

Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of the Entertainment
and Devices eHome Division at Microsoft was nice enough to directly
address some of my concerns about v2 Extenders
.  He stressed that they want to make “media available in every room, with support
for ALL OF THE CONTENT to work right”
and that the Extenders need to be “available at low prices…that don’t make a
lot of fan noise or have other issues”
which are principle concerns that I
have addressed.

Belfiore also notes that third parties are responsible for
marketing and pricing decisions on the Extenders which means including high
priced features like Wireless-N to be able to market them to a wide
audience.  Having said that, he says “the software [Extender] we’ve built can run
on very inexpensive hardware, has a VERY LOW license cost (and I mean VERY low)”

so more companies can enter the market and increase competition with a wider
range of devices and pricing.  The
biggest question is of course, do any companies see our view of an Extender as
a profitable product?

In relation to
Microsoft’s own products, he said that he can’t comment specifically on the
Xbox 360 format support, but added “I
will make a principled statement that our top priority is to try to deliver the
solutions that end-users want and will benefit from the most.”

Since third parties are really the ones in control for
Extenders, Belifore says  “I think the best thing you can do here is
let the hardware manufacturers know what you want”
something that I
strongly agree with and promoted
in a post looking for your feedback
on what OEMs could offer in an Extender
that you are interested in purchasing.

He admits that “there’s
a lot of work still to do (across the board)”
and stresses that your
feedback does help in the process. 
Lastly, Belifore says “I think
some of these effects are really the near-term downside and risk of working on
an open platform”
which we will hopefully find out to be true when other
companies release Extenders that might be more to everyone liking.

I would really like to thank Joe for replying to my post and
taking time to address the concerns of the users.  One of the strengths of the eHome group is
that many of them are accessible for take and offer feedback, whether it be
here, at The Green Button, or other online blogs.  When people start to doubt your platforms, it
is nice to see the faces behind it openly reply and address the issues.  Now we just have to wait for third parties to
try and understand what we are looking for Extenders, and that part of the
puzzle might be solved. 

Other issues such as the various inconsistencies in related
Microsoft platforms is the main thing I would love Microsoft to address.  Zune, Home Server, SoftSled, HD DVD, DVD
Streaming, Xbox 360 Extender MPEG-4 update, etc really needs to be addressed in
a better fashion.  Honestly, I’m sick of
the classic Microsoft mentality of a “proof of concept” and then building from
there.  To a point, this is fine however
when you leave out many major features and functions it is more like a death

12 thoughts on “Joe Belfiore Addresses Media Center & v2 Extender Concerns

  1. Chris,
    Its great that you have access to the people at Microsoft on these things. Shows what kind of influence you have with the customers.

    Did Joe happen to address the future of softsled (software extender) with Media Center? I’m assuming that is never going to happen with Microsoft due to their lack of trust towards the home PC builder. I guess even if they did open up to softsled, they probably wouldn’t allow the software versions to stream cablecard anyway though.

    I ask this because this is one of the top three things keeping me from using Media Center instead of BTV or Sage. If they would open up a little, they would easily win the HTPC battle.

    Its great that you have access to the people at Microsoft on these things. Shows what kind of influence you have with the customers.


  2. I hope Joe’s suggestion that another 3rd party will step in with low cost entry level extender. The Linksys and DLINK extenders look pretty good, but they do not cover the whole audience.

  3. Well, if LinkSys and DLINK see good sales with these first v2 Extender offerings, then they will probably introduce lower-priced offerings in the future. I mean, look at how many models of broadband routers and wireless access points both companies offer.

    Of course, these first offerings are a bit less attractive to some of us, because of their price. And that might slow sales…


  4. But aren’t Linksys and Dlink already shooting themselves in the foot with this relatively high price point? When these extenders don’t sell because they are priced way too high for consumer comfort, are Linksys and Dlink going to then conclude that there isn’t a market for the extender and just fold up shop? The way these things are priced, it seems like a self-fullfilling prophecy waiting to happen.

  5. Brent: A Software Extender has several factors that play into it. Content protection would of course of a major factor. I think they could do SoftSled, and I really think it is one of the most needed features need.

    Zik: Several factors work into it. Like Joe said, things like Wireless-N are really needed for a mainstream marketing point, but at the same time it prices it out the range of many. In the end, it is up to the OEMs to do their own market research as to what should be included and for what price.

  6. Does anyone know if these extenders would work in the UK if I imported one? It’s easy enough to get a voltage transformer but I’m not sure how it would work with the PAL system we have over here, as opposed to NTSC.

  7. “I will make a principled statement that our top priority is to try to deliver the solutions that end-users want and will benefit from the most.”

    I’m sorry but I don’t believe this. First priority for MSFT is maximizing revenue, which includes strategic decisions around features like Divx and Softsled. Second priority is customer wants and benefits. Seriously, I challenge anyone to argue this.

  8. “I will make a principled statement that our top priority is to try to deliver the solutions that end-users want and will benefit from the most”

    What a Joke! Your end users are the people associated with the Green Button and simalar MCE websites. They are not mom and pop who bought a new computer that had MCE installed on it. And MS has repeatedly NOT DELIVERED on what they want! The list of what we want is far to long to list, but I bet anyone reading this can name about 5 in the matter of seconds!

    Better yet I will make a principled statement…

    I am your end user! I have spent thousands of dollars on this product! I have convinced others to place your product in their home! I have become part of communities that that share and find ways to make your product better! I am the guy with and AVERAGE life that runs every bit of media in the house through the MCE! I am the guy who made Media Center a part of my home and my family! You have repeatedly failed to give me what I want!

  9. Greg you hit the nail on the head.

    Just like you I put MCE in my home and what do I have to show for it? Not much to be honest. My wife is still upset that I can’t stream our Wedding DVDs in original quality back thru the extender. I bought a MCE machine, I bought an Extender, I even own copyright to my Wedding DVDs … so “WTF” is the problem? I suppose I could “rip it to wmv” but what kind of junk solution is that. 🙁

    It’s nice that some in Microsoft respond, but all you are doing is spinning the issue. There are thousands of your END USERS on the Green Button, just because they have the intelligence to demand more doesn’t invalidate their requests for must needed enhancements to basic operation.

  10. Jas I will add this to what I said above.

    I love the MCE! It really is a great product and truely is a step for home technology.

    I just simply feel cheated with all the effort I have put forth with the MCE, and I see functionality being ignored that everyone is screaming for. DVD streaming is a perfect example. The E-Home team has actually said that it is not a high need priority, yet it is one of the most discussed topics on all forums. They have also said there are legalities involved. But they have taken control of Webguide4, and even demoed it at digital life, and it will stream dvds over the web. And now to boot they are on the Custom installer kick. Yes it is a needed channel for the MCE, but only a few custom installers actual got involved. The rest just waited for all of us to do the dirty work.

    Just seems to me the MS would want to reward the power user community by fighting for what we want. The excuse of “the decision is up to our partners”, is lame. They are MS. They must certainly have some sort of pull with the partners.

  11. Joe,

    I am glad you are reading these posts and concerns. I to have been waiting forever for a DirecTV announcement. I think that the restrictions on CableCard are a bit too tight, although I dont know what you can do about them. I want to build my own system, I dont wan’t to pay for some overpriced hardware.

    Also mentioned is Codec support. It doens’t have to suck, but at present, half of what I download just will not work. It is a codec, not magic.

    Personally, I think look at MCE, and MS’s current situation in general, the company’s focus should shift to simply enabling people to use their computers and be happy. Let people do what they want to do without silly restrictions. Dont shove formats down my neck, if you want to get me to use something, make it better and the easiest to use and trust me – I WILL. I feel like I hit constant road blocks using MCE.

    I love the concept, I love the UI, but I am in the middle of a remodel, wired everthing for MCE – but to get the systems and the functionality I want I have to find a “Professional Installer” to get me product at at least twice the price. I can freaking make an MCE application yet have to pay some twit money to get the gear. I am speaking from a complete system, security, home automation, etc. Enable people to cut middlemen out, why not? I have put together a simple INSTEON based system with ease, but I had to add some of the glue myself. Anyway..

    Other things, Stream DVDs I am sick of fumbling with discs. Release Softsled it can’t be that hard. UMPC + Softsled – great touch interface for mediacenter content, love to use one as a sweet remote.

    How about this, you come up with something! Seriously, half of the things, heck all of the things mentioned here should not even need to be said. They are simple, obvious needs to anyone who has tried to enjoy the product. MS seems to have all the power and pull any company could ever have yet companies like Apple are bringing products to market that amaze and steal peoples attention. Why?

    MS of late has been nothing but a sad story, Vista isnt even a glimmer of what it was supposed to be, Zune was a flop, Wii is beating Xbox (granted that is a fluke), ahh!! You know, for having one of the coolest development technologies (.Net/VS) a lot of crap is coming out of Redmond for some reason.

    I want MS to amaze me again, every time I use my iPhone I am amzed by good UI and good design, I tossed my 700w in a lake after halving the iPhone for 3 days – that is how good the design is. WM 5.0 vs iPhone 1.0 – that just shoudn’t be.

    Is anyone listening? Does MS care…

  12. Joe,

    Thanks for (finally) posting something of substance to the enthusiast/DIY community, albeit just to rather politely inform us that our concerns are once again being tabled in the interest of pre-qualifying all technology as ready for my grandma to use before letting me even have a look at it.

    I think your arguments about the technology itself have already been blasted into little bits enough, so I’d just like to address your “trickle down” comment because it’s quite apparent that you have no concept whatsoever of how a trickle down effect works in actual practice in terms of encouraging adoption of products and new technologies. You see, if you want something to trickle down, you have to actually pour it into the basin. M$ has produced nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, since Vista launch that pushes the “digital home” concept in any sort of sustainable manner. What company besides M$ can get away with 10 months of zero innovation, zero new features, zero functional product updates despite a BROAD concensus of customers having clearly communicated their needs that aren’t being met since early beta?

    Anyway, things start to trickle down when my friends come over and see the shiny new DirecTV external tuner connected to my home built Vista PC and hear me talk about how easy it was to get implemented. After buying themselves one (that’s the market you take every opportunity to demean any time you speak about adoption and profitability), miraculously they turn around and buy their dear old moms and dads one for Christmas and go set everything up for them, technically incompetent as they may be. Then their mom and dad’s friends come over and see that system and get excited about it, and head over to Best Buy to ask how they can get themselves one too. Adoption comes from SEEING THINGS WORK, with one’s own eyes, and that can’t happen when EVERY E-HOME CONCEPT YOU COME UP WITH ends up as either vaporware that people invest time and infrastructure dollars preparing for just to be disappointed, or more typically finally shows up so late to the dance that everyone’s already gone. The people you want to buy your stuff en masse don’t go to the electronics store on a weekly basis just to see what cool new toys are there. They don’t get excited about “code name” projects they read about on blogs and Engadget. They want to see ACTUAL WORKING PRODUCTS, IN ACTION, like in the good old days they remember. You know, when manufacturers actually had to go out on a limb and create something in advance of knowing whether it was guaranteed to see a billion units worldwide? The successful products achieved adoption because they were actually put into the hands of the consumers. Too bad for the unsuccessful ones. At least we had competition and innovation, and technology moved forward. We’ve all but ground to a halt now, and M$ has played a big role in that slowdown.

    I’ll be completely blunt about DRM, content restrictions, licensing, etc. I don’t care. Not one bit. I don’t care how difficult it is for M$ to negotiate with content/service providers. It’s not my problem. What I care about is actually being able to get my hands on a product that can deliver the content and functionality I want. If you can’t provide it, someone else will, eventually. God bless capitalism, at least when M$ isn’t trying to manipulate it in a way that actually keeps technology out of the hands of those who are willing and eager to spend the money on it.

    So don’t keep spoon feeding me this nonstop series of empty promises, misleading vision statements, and conceptual musings that you know full well you will never be able to morph into an actual product within my lifetime. If you’re not even going to take a swing at the ball, get the hell out of the game and stop trying to be the one who is going to drive the eHome concept. A lot of people are just sitting back and waiting to see what you’re going to do. I’d rather have those people working on actual products and pushing the frontiers of this technology forward instead of cranking out constant lip service to an audience that hasn’t gotten a single damn thing it has asked for in over 5 years.

    You can’t play this circular argument game forever, claiming that you’re not able to get manufacturers interested in producing products until you’ve proven they will be profitable. They BECOME profitable by actually taking a RISK here and there and putting them out in the wild to drum up that kind of popularity. It’s exactly what Sling Media (a company with a microscopic fraction of M$’s resources) did and look how far they pushed the envelope. You honestly expect me to believe that M$ is totally at the mercy of manufacters that are 1/10 your size? Remember, I’m NOT one of the people you’re trying to make your Wal-mart off the shelf solutions for, i.e. I’m not stupid. I know exactly what market forces are at work here. I just wish you’d have the guts to just step up and admit it yourself instead of continuing this ridiculous lip service to a community who COULD BE a HUGE partner in pushing your overall eHome vision. Instead you treat us like a bunch of little kids that want our candy before the others because we scream louder.

    Now, can we PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have an ACTUAL PRODUCT that does ANYTHING we’ve asked for? I already know what the answer will be, but if you get to spew the same tired rhetoric every time you’re interviewed, I get to keep asking the question. Deal?

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