SageTV Excels As Microsoft Fails

Following the delay of
v2 Media Center Extenders
, SageTV has released some information
and photos of
their upcoming Media Extender
and the reaction has been superb (here,
here,
here,
and here
for just a few examples).

Let’s get right to it, their SageTV HD Media Extender
(STX-HD100) will be $199.  Hey, they
listened to customer feedback and choose a good price point.  Sure, I’ve said in the past that $150 is the
perfect price but considering this is coming from a small company, they sure
nailed the price.  Linksys and D-Link,
who have both delayed their release of v2 Extenders, failed to
intro products at price points that I consider reasonable
.

image
SageTV HD Media Extender
(STX-HD100)

v2 Extenders are now likely to show at retail after the new
year, killing the “Holiday 2007” timeframe completely.  Great to have them unveiled at DigitalLife in
October and then delayed into the next year after announcing that they would be
available this year.  On the other side
of things, Sage is expecting theirs to be ready to go in two weeks (12/10) just
beating the holiday sales window.

It isn’t all good though. 
Looking though the threads some people have some dislikes, albeit minor.  There appears to be no learning remote included,
no CD/DVD drive option, local USB ports not active, no wireless option, and
some other small things.  To me, the case
isn’t that attractive (kinda cheap lookin) and that is something that most
people seem to complain about that with other products.

With all that said, most major details haven’t really been
released.  Brent
Evans
outlined the few confirmed features: HDMI (also S-Video, Composite
and Component), SPDIF, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, and 1080p output.  H.264 is also on the list, but other than
that not much is known about file format or container support.

I have high hopes for container and file format
support.  To me, Sage understands exactly
what their customers are looking for in this device.  They have had a makeshift solution for a
while with the MediaMVP, but to me they have no reason to put out a device that
doesn’t do what their userbase is looking to do.  The same can’t be said Media Center Extenders
in most cases.

A lot of these differences in understanding boil down to the
perceived market.  Linksys/D-Link are
making devices for “everyone”, not the Media Center enthusiast.  SageTV on the other hand is taking the smart
route and is making the device for the enthusiast.  The “everyone’s” of the world reap the
benefits.  You develop for enthusiasts in
these products to a large extent, and it is my belief that Sage understands
this and Microsoft (along with their partners) don’t.

SageTV has key support for some features that Media Center doesn’t,
noticeably native QAM support for several tuners.  However, one thing that SageTV doesn’t have
and likely will never is CableCARD support. 
Evil DRM aside, I’ve been a proponent of CableCARD (and DIRECTV) support
because it is needed for mass adoption into the home.  For anyone who doesn’t care about that angle
of things and wants to live DRM free forever, I can’t help but suggest watching SageTV’s next move.  Oh, did I mention that SageTV also has their
own version of Softsled
(SageTV Placeshifter
) and they also have a Windows Home Server support?

Microsoft and their partners need to take a long look at
what SageTV is doing, much of it should have been part of Media Center
for a while now.  Congratulations to
SageTV on a job well done thus far, and we all are looking forward to see what is delivered
in the final product.

16 thoughts on “SageTV Excels As Microsoft Fails

  1. Been watching the development of this extender since it was announced in the Sage forums. Seems it does a few things that the current Pika incarnations will never do (MKV, VIDEO_TS). I just hope that this launch is not as ill-fated as the Pika launch was with M$. They have come through with the price point, hopefully that attitude is carried over into the feature set.

  2. I think I’m going to have to go back to SageTV. I had switched from Sage a while ago because Vista made some nice updates to MCE and there was the promise of CableCard support, which we all know now is complete carp for us DIYers, but the long standing limitations of MCE has been irritating for me. I think I’m going to have to jump ship again back to Sage depending on how well these Extenders shape up.

  3. How does this have anything to do with Microsoft?

    Last I checked Microsoft doesn’t set the extender price point nor do they even suggest a MSRP. It’s 100% up to the hardware provider to determine what features they’re going to offer at what price point so the culprits in this case are D-Link and LinkSys. You do remember what happens when Microsoft tries to in any way influence it’s third-parties right? Hence the reason they have an oversight committee attached to them like a carbuncle.

    That said this is another example of how things are just easier if you can control the entire eco-system and go the walled garden approach. If Microsoft did decide to do their own non-XBox extender it probably would come in at your price point, look good and be easy to setup. Of course then the marketing guys get a wee bit whiny saying that takes away from the XBox 360 Arcade product since that can act as an extender itself.

    SageTV has another advantage besides doing both the software and hardware, they’re basically unknown in the consumer market. It’s all well and good to say Microsoft should cater more to the enthusiast crowd but the second a product is pumped out by Microsoft it’s reviewed in the light of a consumer product whereas SageTV is really only known by the enthusiast crowd.

    On a side note I’m curious how far away we really are from a cheaper Microsoft extender that is based on the 360 design. With the new Fall ’08 updating offering downloadable full games. Extend this out farther and you have a system that doesn’t need a DVD drive that you can sell as an extender that can later be turned into a gaming machine. Couple this with J Allard’s recent interview about his desire for a more connected XBox/Zune/Media experience and there may be hope yet.

  4. Microsoft licenses the software, they put their name in the product, it connects to a Microsoft application within their OS, they should have pushed harder for lower prices. I also noted several times that it is Microsoft and their partners. The devices has little to no point without Microsoft. It’s sole point is to connect to Media Center.

    I don’t think you understand my “developing for enthusiasts” comment. Enthusiasts in this field want products that work, that don’t require hacks for basis features, that their wifes can operate, that play the content they have, etc. In other words, enthusiasts want everything a good customer device should have. Developing for yours enthusiasts in this case, would lead to good reviews in the consumer product side.

  5. Sage doesn’t develop hardware per se. The extender is an OEM design with Sage software on it. They are selling it directly, but they also had an earlier design based on a Hauppauge MVP product that was available at retail.

    The main issue here isn’t just the difference in execution, it’s the difference in focus. Sage is clearly focused on the media center enthusiast market as opposed to the mass market media center (well, wait a sec, such a beast may not actually exist).

    Sage is a TINY company filled with smart and capable people. How is it that they can out execute MSFT?

    MSFT did do cable card, but gelded it in the process and it’s certainly not mass market user friendly (if it were, why restrict it OEM’s alone?).

    And where is softsled?

    MSFT is trying to be all things to all people and in the process failing at both. At least Sage is focused.

  6. So is this extender compatible with Vista Media Center? Or will I have to install an additional “Media Center” type app on my PC? I would hate to have to buy another product since I bought Vista Home Premium for the reason that Media Center is included with it.

  7. Oh, thats a major detraction for me. Then you need to add in the price of this SAGE software app to the price of this hardware extender to get the true cost of a SAGE system.

    Unless I’m wrong and the SAGE software app comes free with this hardware?

  8. Having used SageTV, BeyondTV and MCE/VMC extensively over the past few years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that SageTV is far and away the most rewarding to the HTPC enthusiast. It requires a lot more work OOB to get it to shine, but if you’re willing to spend some time with it, it can do so much more that Media Center.

    Clearly, Media Center (particularly Vista Media Center)is a far better choice for the mainstream user interested in getting into PC-based Home Theater. Someone please let me know if that market starts to actually exist.

    – Halstead

  9. I think that this extender will work with Vista Media Center. Isn’t that why microsoft put out the guidelines for these devices? If it doesn’t it won’t be of any use to me.

    Q

  10. No, this Extender has nothing to do with Media Center or Microsoft. Separate product for a separate application (SageTV). It doesn’t apply to the Pika platform as it doesn’t connect to Media Center at all.

    It does however support a ton of formats (like VIDEO_TS) that none of the Windows Media Center Extenders do.

  11. This extender becomes equal in price to the Media Center extenders when you find out you need SageTV for this device to be useful.

    Save your money and use your XBox 360 with the free Media Center interface built into Windows.

  12. Just like you need a version of Vista with Media Center for them to be useful. It’s not “free”, your paying for it one way or anyone.

    Sage’s Extender also plays more formats, specifically VIDEO_TS (eg. DVD’s). No Media Center Extender has such a feature. Sage also has a Software Extender. They also have a WHS add-in.

  13. Chrisl is right, you need a server just like the xbox needs a server, but the gui is driven by the server in sage, which means all the customizations on the server are available on all the extenders. And the xbox extender doesn’t have the automatic transcode on the fly options that sage tv does. It’s night and day.

    The initial reviews show that Sage has built an excellent extender product. This now makes it something I can recommend to many of my friends, where a single server can drive extenders on all TV’s in the house, and not having to deal with windows issues or format limitations.

    Also, this extender completely silent and very cool compared to the xbox 360. Very good execution by the small team at sage. They really showed up MSFT on this one.

    thx
    mike

  14. re: SageTV Excels As Microsoft Fails
    The electronics gadgets lovers are never objective, I am not one exception. All the above comments seems to me from some point of view unfairly partials. Before further comments i mention the fact: I do not own any media extender, receiver, adapter and any another necessary gizmo’s to bridge the gap between the media resources: CD, DVD, cable-TV, satellite TV, Internet, photo, video cameras, in the air media and the user devices: TV, audio receivers, projector, CD/DVD player recorder, DVR/PVR, VCR, cassette players, photo frames, computers, data base devices as NAS servers and disk archives mobile devices including all I-gizmo’s, MP3-4 players remote access and so an. Yours people have don one consistent job to share yours experiences wit the readers. i not going to undermine yours great work I willing to modestly contribute to it. i would like to pinpoint two things: first the SageTV HD Media Extender (STX-HD100) alone at $199 is one industrial decoration, to convert to useful device need server and client SW priced separately. The STX with server package is $250 every user client SW $30 each so for 5 user devices add another $150 to $250 that be the real comparaison price with similar HW devices in the market D-Link 250 or 750 priced $300 so the STX-HD100 33% more expansive. I am not in position to compare the functionalities for the mentioned devices, only going to pinpoint the clear differences: The D-Link is one finished piece of hardware with all the necessary connection interfaces, no additional SW is required to integrate into the system, the STX is not one finished product and/or short in device interfaces, extra SW required. If the deficiencies are compensated with superior performances or not I do not known.

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