Has Media Center Been a “Miss” for Microsoft?

Dennis
Morgan pointed to
a recent MSNBC article on Bill Gates hits and misses
during his time at Microsoft.  One of the
first products in
the miss category is Media Center
, what do you think? 

Based on the author’s semi-outdated understanding of Media
Center, I’d agree with them 100%.  Media
Center has been a miss when you consider their concept of Media Center being a
product “aimed to move into the living room, tying the PC and the TV together
for recording television shows on the computer…”  I think it would be hard to argue that
Microsoft’s first plan for Media Center was a failure.  Gateway, ViewSonic, HP, and other top tier
OEMs have tried to move into the living room with HTPC form factor PCs, and
that failed big time.  The initial
concept of Media Center is still is a miss (unless you’re taking about the
custom market).

That brings us to Media Center today where the PC in the
living room is much less of the target. 
That idea has been replaced by using your main Desktop PC as a host and
Extenders, mainly the Xbox 360, to drive content into the living room.

Defining Media Center as a miss might be a bit much; however
it is still a product with so much potential that has yet to be capitalized
on.  As I’ve said many times before,
Media Center will never be a replacement for the standard cable/satellite
STB.  It will always be for those who
want more than what those STBs can offer. 
The only problem is what that market wants, Media Center fails to do
correctly.

So my question is does Media Center, with all of its
unreleased potential belong in the same category as Microsoft BOB and Clippy?

51 thoughts on “Has Media Center Been a “Miss” for Microsoft?

  1. “So my question is does Media Center, with all of its unreleased potential belong in the same category as Microsoft BOB and Clippy?”

    No, but unless they get their act together on the next version, it’s heading that way.

  2. Shame because they did a lot of great work, but the concept hasn’t caught on because they forced people to buy a whole new Cable-card PC for the TV part; therefore too expensive.

    Secondarily, their lack of support for many popular codecs doesn’t help.

    Basically a great product crippled by giving in to the special interests vs. giving consumers what they want (MS may not have had a choice, but bottom-line is the same).

  3. Not successful, maybe, but it could never be in the same ballpark as Clippy and BOB. Media Center is actually a really nice (but not perfect) product that hasn’t taken off yet. Clippy and BOB were absolutely awful.

  4. Reading that “Media Center” is a miss for MS makes me sad. I’ve been a BeyondTV user and more recently a SageTV user and have preferred them over Media Center, but I think Microsoft’s success with Media Center is important to the future of HTPC’s as a whole – especially in making HTPC’s more known to the mainstream.

    It must be terribly difficult for MS to please the media companies wants and still make a media center that works the way HTPC users want though.

  5. Simply put, average joe still does not know he can have his PC record all his favorite shows then send them to his TV through a extender.

    Also average joe likes HD since average joe has his Comcast/Brighthouse/Verizon/Dish box and is happy with the quality. You tell average joe that he has to buy an entire new system to even ‘match’ the quality he is use to.

    OR average Joe goes for this and is then faced with other restrictions that he thought he could avoid.. Like being unable to burn Cablecard/Protected content to DVD for playback elsewhere. Lets not mention that his brand-new ~#1200 system can only record two shows at once without more $ and hacks..

    Lets also not mention that to send dvd’s around his home he needs to break the law (DMCA) or get one of those XL1B3 sony units (i have two of these now) then use that “Virtual NAS” software program that’s on the avsforums.

    The list goes on… and on… The platform is not ‘open’ enough and has too many roadblocks that require workaround after workaround.

    About the only thing saving MCE from my own killswitch is the fact that the R5000HD has released their MCE driver…. its buggy as hell but at last I can record freely in pure HD.

  6. I think as a consumer product it has been a miss. Microsoft still is unable to release a product that can be easily managed by a regular user. For a power user it is great especially when you start using the dvd library.

    They need to focus on the key function and make that easy. TV/DVD/Music accessible from multiple rooms. Everything else is fluff. Fast as lightning interfaces, easy set up and absolutely zero user management would be for home entertainment what the ipod is for mobile. It needs to be plug it in and turn it on like xbox.

  7. If it wasn’t for My Movies, I’d probably move to SageTV. I don’t think the DirecTV integration with MCE is going to happen.

  8. MCE is definitely not a miss. It is improving, albeit slowly. DCTs are actually pretty stable now. I also saw a cablecard pc from HP last week that was under $1,000 that came with a 750 GB HD.

    Is it mainstream stream? No, but that is not how you define success. I think Microsoft just needs to be more cohesive with their strategy. For instance, why does the Xbox have HD downloads but MCE does not?

  9. I love Media Center, but I’m having a hard time convincing others to use it.

    The cost of entry is still too high. Both financially and in the way you use the computer.

    If running Media Center on a general household computer, you have to be aware that it’s recording and serving up television. The computer goes from a non-critical, don’t-care-if-its-on-or-off box to a critical, always-on (in some form) box. I think that’s a significant mindset change for people. And not an easy one to communicate.

    So in terms of a solution that can be adopted by the masses, yes, Media Center failed. But I agree it’s not dead yet.

    The most inteaguing possibility for me is a possible combination with Windows Home Server.

    The cost of the WHS box started out reasonable and can hopefully be further reduced over time. But it’s been positioned very cleverly as a box you stick in your closet and forget about. That’s what Media Center needs. Stick a box in your closet, buy an extender and off you go.

    I wish more people could experience Media Center, and combining it with WHS would be a great approach.

  10. MCE will be a winner when it can be conduit for consumer choice. One box to allow you to hire or fire any provider and keep your content. One box that will let you stream any media file (in any codec) to any extender. These are the type choices they need to be enabling so that the influences and go out and sing the MCE praise instead having it sound like a political stump speech with all the a exception language.
    Until then consumers would be pretty dumb to invest in the infrastructure unless they only need OTA.

  11. I think it depends on how you view media center. If you think of it as a DVR for the average Joe’s living room, it is a miss in my opinion. If you view it as a platform to build your custom solution on it, it looks quite different. The latter is what I view it as. I chose VMC as my platform to build my whole house entertainment on and as such it delivered. I chose it for the Cablecard support, regardless of how annoying the restictions are. At least VMC does support Cablecard. Whether you like Cablecard or not is a different story and should not be mixed with whether you like media center or not. I do fault MS for making things more restrictive than they have to and I would have like to see Bill lobby the cable and movie industry the same way Jobs has lobbied the music industry. The recording industry finally saw the light largly due to Jobs lobbying efforts. As it stands right now, MS appears to be the bitch of the cable and movie industry rather than being in the driver seat trying to shape the ultimate user experience.

  12. But then again I don’t think the author is saying Windows Media Center has been a failure. It seems she is pointing out the living room form factor hasn’t been successful. If you think of the big names (HP, Sony, Gateway) you’d have to agree — all have introduced those boxes and abandoned them. However, the smaller companies (like Niveus) have been pretty darn succesful at selling into that channel.

    In my opinion, the definition of a Media Center PC in the article is way too narrow. I believe the author fails to miss the rich variety of scenarios which you can accomplish with Windows Media Center

    Also, I’m not to sure that a piece of software which largely defines 100 million+ shipped units (Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate) can be deemed a failure. I’m fairly sure Microsoft Bob never saw those numbers. 🙂

  13. It’s a miss out of the box because it doesn’t have a target user base. There are too many issues across the board for a average user to figure out in order to make it work correctly. It’s a jack of all trades and master of none product right now. Tons of potential but not nowhere near being there yet. There are third party software companies that do a good job filling in some of the fundamental flaws(distributed audio and control) however these items should be part of the core platform. Unless you are talking about the high end custom market, there are cheaper more economical solutions that will accomplish the same thing for a all in one control system. The extender experience while nice is still 2nd rate when compared to an actual PC based mediacenter.

  14. Charlie, Microsoft really needs to stop going by the numbers. It isn’t too hard to ship 100+ million units when MCE 2005 shipped as the default SKU on most top tier OEMs and now Media Center is in Vista Home Premium/Ultimate.

    Organizations always do this, personally I can’t stand it. The NCTA is bragging about CableCARD and how successful it is/has been, until you realize that out of those millions of CableCARD devices there are only 375,000 CableCARDs out in the world.

  15. well, i’m just building my first HTPC now, and i planned on using VMC (which would have been my first experience with it). but now as i’ll be using the Hauppauge HD-PVR, and there’s no blu-ray support, i have no choice but to switch to SageTV.
    I don’t think they missed, but i think they’re behind. For how big they are, you’d think they’d have some pretty good developers there, and that they could pump out the features almost at will.
    So, i’m not too impressed.

    -Tony

  16. Chris, I think you overestimate the ‘ease’ by which (a) you get OEMs to ship a SKU of Windows which costs them more and (b) get the consumer willing to pay more for the features.

    But you are right — the numbers aren’t the only way you can measure whether or not Media Center has been a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’. How would you like to measure success?

  17. Charlie,

    “I’m not to sure that a piece of software which largely defines 100 million+ shipped units (Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate) can be deemed a failure. I’m fairly sure Microsoft Bob never saw those numbers. :-)”

    Are you really suggesting it’s some form of a success because it came bundled as part of Home Premium and Ultimate?

    “I believe the author fails to miss the rich variety of scenarios which you can accomplish with Windows Media Center?”

    Most of those common users are using it as a media player at most, is that the rich variety of scenarios for which you refer.

    Man you guys really appear to be disconnected, and also appear to be patting yourselves on the back for success in what areas…the custom high end market….ok.

    Simply put. It’s too complicated for the average user to setup and support. It’s poorly marketed, and it doesn’t meet most enthusiasts’ expectations.

    The community repeats over and over the features we expect to see in the product(s), (OS, Extenders, devices) but Microsoft isn’t organized enough, or bold enough to develop and evolve the product to meet consumer demand in a timely fashion. You leave us disgruntled, accepting the product as disfunctional, coming up with work arounds, and if it doesn’t change a competitor will sweep us away.

    I get the sense that you’re just too big, therefore appear to be unresponsive. I’m not saying that you guys don’t care, I know that you do. Just that it seems like organization/department beauracracy gets in the way of delivering timely innovation.

    Please don’t sit there and tell me, “I think we’re doing a good job, look at how many units we’ve distributed”, when a good portion of the actual user/enthusiast community is disappointed at the pace in which Microsoft has delivered on this product.

    But maybe you have a better pulse on this than me, or maybe Microsoft is satisfied delivering Media Center through the high end custom market.

    My 2 cents.

    M

  18. Charlie: At volume discounts for XP Home vs. XP MCE 2005 I believe we are talking about $10-$12 difference. And of course with XP Pro vs. MCE 2005, MCE 2005 has always been cheaper since the launch. Pair that with the decreasing hardware costs, the OEM isn’t paying significantly more for the OS and they are paying significantly less for the hardware.

    The consumer is getting more value for less or equal price 95% of the time. If the $10 is passed on to the consumer, the difference is made up somewhere. The other 5%, the consumer likely isn’t noticing the $10 difference.

    As for how I’d measure success, as I know we have talked about before I don’t think Media Center is in a market where it is easily measured or compared to others. What is good from one perspective (eg. # of units) means nothing without real world usage data. Consumer awareness would most likely pay into the equation, of course Media Center is pretty low on the marketing side of things. Community awareness is high, but the community is plagued by a lack of features that they feel is needed for a successful product.

    In the end, I don’t think Media Center has been a “miss,” I think Microsoft has a lot of work to do and it still has a ton of potential that has yet to be taken advantage of.

    If a product being a “Hit” is on the left, and a “Miss” on the right, Media Center is near the middle. It has hardly taken the world by storm, but it isn’t SPOT or BOB either. 🙂

  19. I don’t think it is a miss either, although as Chris said there is an aweful lot of unreleased potential. I think that unless Microsoft really makes it the way to share TV/Music/DVD/photos in the rooms without having multiple PC’s (such as through the extenders) that it will fail. From what I am getting out of the whole idea of media center is this is exactly what they wanted to achieve.

    The idea is there, and the functionality is soooo close. They just need to really focus on what customers want, otherwise people will drop it and go to products that do what they want, such as sage or the popcorn hour.

  20. I have to agree with Ross…. I still for the life of me cant figure out why (and this is classic microsoft) that media center does not work with WHS and sagetv does.

    I really think WHS getting media center will be critical for the future growth of media center. People do not want to use their desktop pc’s as a server for media center and while there is a use for pc’s at each tv there is no good way to link them (what softsled would have done).

    And I also agree with the comment about xbox live downloads not being available to media center. Media Center could be huge for those downloads and prove to be vastly more successful if it could do more than your basic dvr. (ie one box for your hd movies and dvr)

    Getting prices down to $500 for the main box and $100 for extenders will be very important as well. Price trumps everything and media center is still too expensive for what it is even w/o the added costs of service.

    I also think better extenders will be needed going forward. There is no reason the extenders should not support every codec out there. Just look at the sagetv extender…. its cheaper than media center extenders and can play damn near every codec out there. If it wasnt for sage having such a horrible interface (even after themes) I likely would be using it right now.

    Now its nowhere near as unsuccessful as some of ms’s other failures but ms needs to get on the ball or it could become the next one.

  21. one other thing to add to my above post…. ms really needs to start releasing real updates on a timely schedule.

    much like how xbox does 2 major updates a year we need to get more regular new “feature” updates each year where it feels like we are getting a new product from time to time. we really havent gotten anything since the launch of vista and that is incredibly sad. just look at how far zune/xbox/ps3/appletv have all improved in the time period since vista launched. all have seen too many new features to count and there is a ton of little things media center can and should be improving (themes, colored guide, change the media center strips around, a tuner status page, etc). and thats just off the top of my head… im sure if i thought more about it i could find a number of other things that need fixing.

  22. Completely agree with superswiss and Jay.

    For computer-savvy AV enthusiasts who have the time to maintain and experiment with their Media Center enclave (HTPCs and extenders), MCE/VMC is a hit.

    The core MCE/VMC components (i.e. Music Library, Picture Library, etc.) work well, and are fairly stable. There are so many obvious basic necessary capabilities that are missing…for example, displaying signal strength for OTA broadcasts.

    The home run hit is the free/inexpensive plug-ins and other software that takes VMC/MCE to the next level. On a regular basis I use Yougle for watching Yahoo Music and Youtube videos, MCShoutcast for Internet Radio, Big Screen Headlines for listening to audio blogs and watching video blogs, MiniLyrics to view scrolling lyrics while listening to my Music Library…to name a few.

    If I had the time and money, I would be in heaven if I had a Gig-E LAN with Terabytes of central storage, a Windows Home Server, SBS or Exchange server for e-mail, Home Automation gear (for control and monitoring of lighting, HVAC, video cameras, etc.) and MCE/VMC HTPCs (with DirecTV record/replay capability). Maybe some day! 🙂

  23. Yeah, I think it’s been a miss. There is so much potential in there, but I think overall they made it far too complicated technically the way they designed the extender model. It is just like pulling teeth trying to develop in MCML, and really, with all the disappointment around the V2 extenders and their crappy performance and limited codec support, people are just a bit sick of all the hype repeatedly failing to live up to expectations.

    Nothing against you personally Charlie, but I’m sure you don’t believe that bull about how many units are shipped. It smacks of “politician-speak”, and is pretty much a worthless metric considering how it’s bundled and distributed. A much better metric would be the number of people who buy a unit MAINLY to use as a media device, and that figure is an extremely small proportion of your “100+ million” figure.

  24. Someone mentioned mindset, and to me that’s the thing that’s made MC largely a miss. I like it a lot, more than Sage, BTV, MediaPortal, and all the rest. But Microsift failed in its marketing – MS didn’t clearly show the average knucklehead that MC is a nice replacement for the Tivo.

    To tell the truth, I forgot I even had it. I had MC for a year when i went looking for a new DVR. I even bought one – a Philips, which didn’t work so well – before i realized I had Media Center. Then there was no turning back. I love it, but the learning curve was steep.

    Most people just want a box that they can plug in and record their shows, period, that’s the Tivo. Changing the mindset to use a computer, that’s the challenge.

  25. I think it’s hard to see MC as a miss overall. The general availability of a “free”

    It certainly has an identity problem (i.e. who is it’s target audience), and the associated lack of focus leaves MC with a strange mix of high-end (cable card), missing (QAM, ATSC guide data, softsled, etc), and abandoned (DVD changers) features.

    I wish that eHome would drive feature development more off of what enthusiasts want in the product. I think they would find that model would serve them better in the long run.

  26. So close and yet so far from being a hit. Microsoft has all the pieces, but the ecosystem (360, zune, WHS, VMC) is just broken.
    Fix it, encourage mass adoption and you have the hit.

  27. Not all is lost and I’ll explain in a moment. However PC-based DVR (Media Center, BeyondTV, SageTV) won’t have legs to stand on for much longer. Mainly from the cable industry’s move to digital distribution. Just as we’ve hit a level affordability, the days of cheap TV tuners and the ability to enable most inexpensive consumer PCs for DVR will be over. I doubt Cable industry is going to relax their certification requirements. So we’re heading right back where we started $1000+ cablecard PCs, $200+ tuners. Not to mention that many consumers are opting for laptops that don’t make for ideal “home” Media Center server. And finally, Microsoft/Partners have shot themselves in the foot by releasing these $300+ v2 Media Extenders. The cost of outfitting a home with two tvs should not cost more than $799 (without tuners). Now, I think there is a path to achieve this. For Microsoft I think it is clear…

    – Migrate Media Center to headless system, Windows Home Server
    – Get partners to certify their WHS solutions with CableLabs, etc. so they can be classified as ReadyEverything (Cable, Satellite, IPTV).
    – Require partners to include a low cost SideShow LCD in WHS products for configuration purposes
    – Lower the licensing cost to partners for the WHS OS and *especially* Media Extender. Partners for their part must continue to reduce hardware costs.

    Only Sell as a Bundle…
    $649 500GB CableCard Ready WHS and (1) Extender
    $149 for additional Extenders
    $99 for Digital Tuners

    A $999 – Dual Tuner, WHS, (2) Extender setup would translate to $28/mo over 3 years. Thats pretty competitive to what providers are offering today.

  28. when Fiji lands it will take off.
    with digital text services (mheg) and DirecTV support mce can finally replace my stb.

  29. I tend to agree with mstevens here, it seems like the most people have no idea what Media Centre is and what it can do, and those that do (enthusiasts) have many feature requests that rarely show up in the product, so they’re losing interest.
    I don’t think its a miss yet though, there’s still potential, with a little public awareness and faster product updates, it can be a hit.

  30. I would have to agree with JohnCz on some points. Media Center needs to be repackaged. The bundling of Media Center with the OS has worked for enthusiasts, but remains hidden/unusable to the masses. It just requires too many hacks, and decisions (tuners, CableCard capable, Extenders). They need to bundle the package with a plug and play hardware device. Take a clue and go the way of Apple. See the product through the software, and the hardware design and stick it on your own reference platform (and keep it in the sub $500 price range). Make it connect back to the PC (on it’s own to make the PC a slave for storage and viewing) rather then have a PC with VMC and go and buy an Extender. It just seems to be a good product without a good way of getting it to the masses.

  31. rn, I know you are anxious to get rid of your stb but do you really think DirecTV support alone is a game changer??…especially if it priced anywhere near cablecard tuner prices.

  32. How would you like to measure success?

    There is one way to measure Media Centers units used, is from the EPG guide setup when you click on “I agree” that information is sent to Microsoft.

  33. In response to Aaron Rodriguez’s comment “If it wasnt for sage having such a horrible interface (even after themes) I likely would be using it right now.”
    I really think people who haven’t checked out the SageMC (more than a theme – its a replacement interface) would be surprised to see how nice it is. SageTV is seeing many VMC and XP MCE defectors coming over for the SageTV HD Extender and really happy with the SageMC Interface. Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/5ds5va

    People tend to write off SageTV before they realize how much you can make the interface your own…

  34. I had another thought overnight on the “we are so sucessfull cause we have shipped 100million+” units quote. I guess by that metric MSPaint must be an awesome bit of software. It has sold loads of copies, and the calulator application too…

  35. Chris: “Microsoft really needs to stop going by the numbers.”

    Would you do that for your personal finances? 🙂 As I said earlier, it’s not the only way you can quantify success but it *is* one of the major ways we evaluate success — it’s really the only piece which counts in a Profit & Loss (P&L) statement when you are in the business of selling anything.

    Mark, neither Paint nor Calculator contribute to defining a specific SKU of Windows. They are a part of the overall value proposition of Windows, so their success is measured in part by the success of Windows.

    Chris: “Consumer awareness would most likely pay into the equation [to determine success], of course Media Center is pretty low on the marketing side of things.”

    Totally agree — this is the problem of defining success strictly by the numbers — the marketing folks don’t see the need to invest. Arguably, broad general awareness of Windows Media Center is one of our biggest hurdles.

    M: “Please don’t sit there and tell me, “I think we’re doing a good job, look at how many units we’ve distributed”, when a good portion of the actual user/enthusiast community is disappointed at the pace in which Microsoft has delivered on this product.”

    Let’s not confuse success in the context of the original post (was the author correct in saying Media Center PCs have been a miss for Microsoft) with whether or not the product team believes the product has obtained perfection. I’m saying the author doesn’t understand what Microsoft’s own success metrics looks like for Media Center and so makes the ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ call in a vacuum. As far as we (the Media Center team) are concerned is been very successful — which is why we get to keep making it better with each release.

    Personally, I measure our success by the feedback I see here and elsewhere. Our users are ‘super passionate’ about what they want to see the product do and how it evolves over time. So far I’ve seen that community of users continue to grow — if I start to see it shrink then I know we are less successful compared to the past and we need to make changes.

    In a nutshell, if you have a constructive comment / criticism in this thread (or in any other forum) then we’ve been successful because you are at least trying to use the product. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t take the time to let your thoughts be known.

    Keep the thoughts coming…

  36. I like JohnCz’s breakdown, and love the idea of having Xbox Live downloads available in Media Center.

    Sony’s PlayTV on the PS3 and PSP comes out in Europe sometime this Fall, and will be an interesting offering. No PC required, and it’s simple. Buy a PlayTV box and plug it in – that’s it. Assuming it works well – no small feat 🙂 – I could see it being really successful. It’s easy to understand, it’s easy to afford (assuming the PlayTV is ~$150), and it’s easy to justify the cost at each stage (Blu-ray player with the PS3, DVR with the PlayTV).

    Apple’s on a course to start using the AppleTV and iPod/iPhone together. But without any cable/satellite integration they’re second string.

    If MS can’t capitalise on all the potential of Zune + Xbox + WHS + MC, Sony or Apple will sweep in with a nicer package and Media Center really will become a flop (a mainstream one at least).

    Time to reposition Media Center in a simpler, more consumer-friendly package. Make it easier to understand, and easier to afford.

  37. Charlie, I think that many of the “passionate” users of MC are also frustrated with the “just wait” answer we keep getting from eHome; I know I am. When I see what other products in the space can do, I have to wonder if promise is enough to maintain the passion.

    Looking back to when I started using MC, I remember it being an easy choice to pick the “green button” over the rest. Right now, for me slick UI and price are the main draws. If I had to make the choice again; contrasting that against heterogeneous guide/tuner and HD-PVR type device support (to name two features I want) I don’t know that price and form would take it.

    Maybe we should be asking if MC is more of a hit now then it was in ’05.

  38. andy vt: “I think that many of the “passionate” users of MC are also frustrated with the “just wait” answer we keep getting from eHome.”

    I’ll let you in on a secret: Everything in life involves a ‘just wait’ at some point.

    You develop software, right? Do you deliver 100% of all features to all people immediately? No. Some must wait — sometimes indefinitely due to market conditions, viability, profitability, etc.

  39. Taking up Ross’s point about Sony, the breaking news is that their Movie download service will come out in the US this summer, with Europe / Japan later. It would also appear that the content will be transferable across their ecosystem.

    So to recap, in Europe you will be able to watch TV and record on the HDD. They will have a multiplatform download content. They have a very powerful games system. They have Blu-Ray. Seems pretty connected, compared to Microsoft.

  40. Charlie, I understand that waiting (and learning how to wait) is part of almost any [worthwhile] experience. For me the frustration is that we never seem to get past the waiting…

    When it comes to delivering features in a software product (my experience could be different, I’ve never worked for a sw company), transparency is the most important thing. That way at least you know what you’re waiting for and approximately how long. Without transparency it’s too easy to say “bulls eye” when you miss the target.

  41. I think that Media Center has the potential to be a great product. Everyone that I’ve introduced it to loves it.

    But it lacks some features for non US users that I think prevents the success.

    In Sweden we lack support for subtitles, encrypted (pay tv) channels, poor EPG coverage.

  42. MISS. HUGE HUGE HUGE MISS.

    wake up, people, especially you Charlie Owen. Microsoft had a decent lead, but they’ve lost digital media. Media Center, Zune, Windows Media Player, Windows Mobile = Failure. Failure. Failure. Failure. Not one of these digital media initiatives is going well. Even XBox looks shaky (I bet in the end it finishes third this generation) and certainly is still billions underwater in terms of profit.

    Will the Olympics streaming demoed at Mix be available on Media Center? NO. (requires Silverlight)

    Will Hulu be available on Media Center? Given that Comedy Central, VH1, and Nick all just discontinued their services that seems pretty doubtful.

    Charlie what happened to your blog? Not too long ago you were promising a white paper about mapping scenarios and blah blah blah blah. Then, nothing posted for months and months. How is that “individual engagement” with the community going? Like most of Microsoft, you’re full of hot air, empty promises, and lacking entirely with results. And then to come on this blog and spin up 100M as the Media Center number.. it’s such a complete insult to the intelligence of everyone else here. You are the perfect blend of Microsoft arrogance and Microsoft ignorance. Don’t lecture the rest of us on software development. You should shut the f up.

    Signed,
    Someone who was stupid enough to build a service for Media Center (don’t do it people).

  43. Actually, I believe TVTonic just announced they would have Olympics coverage within Media Center — and their experience is written in MCML rather than Silverlight.

    I’m fairly sure I explained the hiatus on my blog. I’ve begun thinking about returning back — your post here warns me I should again be wary — so much crap to wade through to get to the good stuff. I’ll post over there tonight and see if people want me to write again, or just sit down and shut up.

    Why do the people who have such vitriol to spew always do so anonymously? Because they lack the decorum and moral fiber to stand up and be held accountable for what they write. Well, at least you chose an appropriate synonym.

    I’ve been forwarding lots of stuff to the various teams at Microsoft who are working on these issues. The whitepaper was put on hold for a very good reason — it should only take you one guess to figure out what might have been more important given my company and product group.

    The individual engagement thing has been going pretty good. I’ve had the good pleasure of working with three people out in the community on a very real and deep level with Windows Media Center. The lessons learned have been extremely valuable for our team — although it will be a while before you see the results.

    I’m going to ask my friend Ed Bott to drop by and give you a good ‘Troll Zing’ — he is much better at those than myself. 😉

  44. The simple fact is that Media PCs, even with the easy MCE interface, just aren’t consumer products and won’t be until they reach the level of white goods. A media box has to be simple, quiet, not crash and be reliable in it’s recording (not just accidentally miss scheduled recordings). It still doesn’t cope well with simple things like not recording duplicates repeated on different channels for example (and yes, I realise you can limit it to a single channel, but then you lose flexibility). My old Tivo (series 1 UK) was more reliable.

  45. I dont think this article is correct. It is going to go mainstream, it’s just a slow grower. Hopefully we are helping

    If you visit our websites you will see that all the complexity of this system is handled by our company.

    Media Receive install these systems like SKY Boxes already, quick, proffesional installation & tonnes of supporting services.

    Please visit http://www.media-receive.co.uk to find out more

  46. Has it been a miss? There are times when I wonder if they are even trying to hit a mark (so they can’t miss).

    As soon as “Fiji” (or news of it) hits the public, I think this question will be answered.

  47. I agree with JohnCz. What is so frustrating is that Microsoft has most (all?) of the pieces to put together an comprehensive system: XBox/XBox-Live, Zune, Windows Home Server and MCE. The problem is that it seems that none of these groups work together. At least their products would indicate that. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was in my gen 1 Zune that couldn’t transcode my MCE recorded TV content.

    An XBOX like consumer electronics appliance is the way I think “most” non-techy folks would prefer to get Media Center. Call it the VBOX. 🙂 Of course, it would have to be a lot quieter than the XBOX and you would probably need to figure out a way to subsidize the hardware to keep it inexpensive. Say it required a two year $100/yr subscription to X/VBox-Live.

    A combined Windows Home Server/Media Center Server would also appeal to a good number of folks – like myself. BTW these dedicated form factors should interoperate with other Vista MCE PCs in the house. Currently I love to watch ripped DVDs off my WHS wirelessly on my Vista laptop. It is just a shame that I had to jump through hoops to get that all setup. Non-techy users would have no hope of making that work.

    Microsoft needs to be thinking outside their normal box (PC software). XBox seems to have made the transition. Zune is working on it. Obviously Apple has shown their hand with AppleTV so you have an idea of where they’re going.

    What’s up with the diminishing frequency of MCE updates? I thought Fiji was supposed to be in Vista SP1. This gives me the feeling I got when we didn’t see an IE6 replacement for such a long time – ie the product team was either disbanded or dramatically shrunk.

    I really do love the MCE experience though. Sorry if the above seems harsh. It’s just so frustrating seeing Microsoft let another lead slip away. Apple is on a roll especially in digital media and I’m just not seeing Microsoft mount an good response to their challenge. A friend told me how he answered his manager on why they should develop on Windows instead of Unix when Unix was clearly more prevalent in this particular industry. This was the early ’90s. His response was that it wasn’t that important who was currently in front but who had the most momentum which was clearly Windows at the time. Unfortunately, I would say the same about Apple vis-a-vie MCE. Apple’s got the momentum.

  48. Chris,

    I’m involved in the “custom installation” A/V business. In my business we are installing everything on the face of the earth from high priced Kaleidescape systems to Apple TV and Vudu systems. But you know what we never install? Amd what no customer to this day has ever asked for? A Media Center. I don’t know if the average consumer even knows what Media Center is. This is after MS has spent countless years trying to figure out how to make PC’s more than just “PC’s”, and even included it for free in Vista.

    The correct answer is that Media Center has been a miss, a MISERABLE miss.

  49. I have tried the Windows Home Server, Media Center PC (i.e. a dual core desktop with loads of hard drive and a TV tuner) and a Media Center Extender (Linksys DME2200) connected by ethernet cable. The wife loves the uncluttered shelf under the TV and what it does, it does very well. Sometimes I even regard it as brilliant. What it will not do, however, makes it an unsatisfactory, inefficient and expensive combination.
    The new kid on the block in the UK is high definition FreeSat from the main broadcasters (BBC, ITV etc) Will MC support it ? No! Are there plans to support it? Panasonic have already announced a FreeSat HD TV, but at present I am not aware of a VMC compatible TV tuner card let alone an upgrade to MC. As for WHS, the box sits there switched on all day doing nothing except for a brief backup of the other computers. The whole lot has what euphemistic estate agents describe as “great potential” which translates into “needs a lot of work” to meet the needs of discerning consumers.

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