The first sign of a business in trouble is when you must reinvent
yourself to stay alive. Microsoft
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
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.
“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
Extenders, 8 CableCARD tuners for only Niveus/Life|ware). I think we will see Microsoft heavily market
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)