Media Center Gets "PCTV" Marketing in Microsoft Store Mockups

It has been
my theory
that Microsoft is slowly ditching the concept of using and
promoting Media Center as a whole home entertainment experience and moving to
the “TV on your PC” concept which they have been actively promoting over the
past 6 months.  This concept is something
that most Media Center enthusiasts don’t want to believe as it turns Media
Center into a product that most current users have no interest in.  What better way to find out the future of
Media Center than looking at how it could be presented in the upcoming
Microsoft retail stores.

got their hands on some leaked mockups
of the retail experience, and while
Microsoft’s PR is pushing the leaked images as “early
prototypes and concepts of our retail store plans” I think it will further key
us in on the future of Windows Media Center.

The images, which are presented in on
Gizmodo show Media Center being marketed
as “PCTV” with such usage scenarios as “watching the Today Show while checking
emails during breakfast” and “watching American Idol while on the blog.”  Other key features in the mockup include PC
as a PVR, watching Internet TV, and managing all media in one place.

The mockup of the retail experience is
driven by what look to be PC monitors or small screen HDTVs.  A theater setting or living room with Media
Center as the center piece doesn’t look to be in the picture if this mockup is
to be trusted.  Also missing in the
mockup is any mention of Media Center Extender’s.

I have no doubt will we see things that are not clearly
outlined in the leaked images, however I do believe the marketing material for
Media Center is what we will end up seeing. 
Notably missing from the mockups are large displays for Xbox 360, Zune,
and even Home Server.  I’m not sure Home
Server will get a large amount of square-footage designated to it, but I do expect
Zune and Xbox to have their place (both Zune and Xbox are outlined
in the product offerings mockup image

What’s your opinion, will the marketing for Media Center be
focused on whatever PCTV is, or can we expect Media Center being pushed as the
10-foot experience that we really want?

14 thoughts on “Media Center Gets "PCTV" Marketing in Microsoft Store Mockups

  1. No doubt Microsoft is trying another tactic since the pervious marketing attempts haven’t worked out, but I don’t think that means the death as MC as we know it. One thing that gave me confidence was late last year when MS invited some press to Redmond to see how things work at eHome. During this time it was obvious that MS is serious about Media Center as a whole house media platform and that includes as a DVR. The highlight of the day was a tour of a MS exec’s house of which the whole thing was based on Media Center. This tells me that the people who steer the company use MC the same way I do and feel my pain — was amazed how many gripes we shared.

    Bottom line is while the PR team is marketing towards the general public, that doesn’t mean that MS is going to completely ignore us.

  2. Considering Microsoft’s track record with Media Center so far, I’d say they’ll do exactly the opposite of what we want.

  3. While the mockups look really interesting,I have to wonder where Microsoft is getting their marketing info.

    Do people really want to watch TV on their PC?

    Sitting at their desk watching on maybe a 19″ (or 22″) LCD monitor? Hey everyone, get away from that 52″ TV in the living room with the comfy sofa and let’s all crowd around the little 24″ monitor on my desk and either stand up or sit in desk chairs to watch TV.

    I can’t believe that I am the only one that thinks TV watching in the office (at the desk) is a second or maybe third “tier” activity (e.g. “watching” TV, like news or weather, in a window or on a second monitor while performing other tasks). Also, for the most part, I can do this today, and I dont’ really need Media Center to do it.

    The problem is that Media Center is currently not a 2′ interface. Who needs a remote and big “remote-able” screen objects to watch TV from a PC? Just use the mouse/keyboard since they are right there, and use normal “up close” smaller screen objects since you are sitting only an arms length away. Also, Media Center doesn’t play well with multiple monitors. If I full screen Media Center on a monitor, I can’t continue to work on a second or third monitor.

    I have a 24″ monitor on my desk and a rather comfortable Herman Miller desk chair, but I don’t recall every wanting to watch a TV show/movie at my desk, especially if I have other options (i.e. watching the same TV show in the living room).

    We also have a computer with a 22″ monitor on our Kitchen “task” desk area. While this computer has Media Center and a tuner, no one in my family has ever been compelled to actually watch TV from that location. Who really wants to sit in the kitchen to watch TV (other than perhaps that second/third tier function)? On the other hand, if “soft sled” were available (I think Windows 7 may do some part of this), someone may watch the occasional recorded (or perhaps live) TV show which would be available from the main Media Center computer in the living room. But again, this is really casual “second or third tier” TV watching, not a primary TV watching or recording location.

    It just seems that “TV on a PC” is a 180 degree turn for Media Center. The only thing that might make sense is if “TV on a PC” is really “Media Center extender on a PC”, where most of the “heavy lifting” (i.e. antenna and cable connections, TV tuners, recording, disk storage, etc.) takes place on a primary Media Center computer someplace else.

  4. If Ben is correct and MS is really pushing for using MC in a whole-house concept then you really need Extenders. The Xbox360 doesn’t make sense as an extender in many places in your house – such as a PC. So where are the extenders?

    Makes me glad I moved from WMC to SageTV a year ago as Sage has a much better vision of where we are going.

  5. I thought of you, Chris, when I saw these comps. My immediate reaction was “ugh,” but then my follow-up reaction was “vendor comp.”

    Vendors don’t always get the details right — esp. in comps. There might have been a top-line discussion around WMC where they outlined their “PC on your TV” slogan, and the vendor just took this for PCTV as a way to add ‘marketing value.’

    Of course, it could be exactly what MSFT is intending, but unless we’re going to start seeing integrated PCs within flat-panel TVs, I, too, see a limited future for “PCTV” as a go-to-market strategy.

    If PCTV is really their direction, then what MSFT is doing is holding on to their “PC everywhere” philosophy that made sense in the 80s, starting looking suspicious in the 90s, and looks downright foolish in the 21st century.


  6. Another possibility: the big HTPC model is deemphsized in favor of both (i) PCTV as TV on your PC, and (ii) whole home systems are run from a Windows Home Server that has Media Center functionality through extenders (or maybe small dedicated HTPCs that basically act as extenders).

  7. Media Center as a DVR is pretty much dead.

    Cable companies have effectively managed to keep cable cards out of consumer hands, and in major metro areas they’re moving to encrypted digital service (eliminating most analog service in the process).

    What you’re left with is a DVR that can’t record what you want to watch. It shouldn’t be much of a suprise that they’re trying to find a new focus for the product.

  8. I think it’s been obvious for awhile that they don’t really know what to do with Media Center, even though they keep updating it and keeping it around.

    Personally, for awhile I thought it was going to be a big part of a strategy to get IP-based TV into the living room. Since MS has their their hands in IPTV, it made sense.

    On the other hand, the lack of seamless compatibility with modern TV services (i.e. non-analog cable and non-OTA HD) has been a big problem, especially when the cost of a Media Center makes it a high-end device.

    It’s kind of sad that they can’t come up with a good extender strategy. The XBOX 360 is decent, but it’s too loud. The others don’t provide the full experience.

    I think they’re probably retreating to some kind of interim hybrid strategy of their past strategies that makes TV manageable on the PC, with the idea that extenders will eventually take the UI to the living room.

    I use Media Center in my living room. I am still on analog cable because it’s the cleanest way to deal with MCE. I also use it to watch videos. But I don’t use it to listen to music because the idea of having to have the TV turned on to navigate music is silly (Sideshow would have helped here). For digital music, I use the Squeezebox and the music library and server software run on the MCE machine. I don’t use the MC for DVDs because it’s too much of a hassle to get the AC-3 working with my hardware. Also, I get glitches from time to time that prevent me from recommending it to those that don’t want to deal with that kind of thing.

    The main question I have is… who is going to be watching TV on their PC if you have digital cable and need to stick a cable box next to the PC? And with all the crap that accumulates on people’s PCs and could potentially interfere with the system, who is going to rely on someone’s PC to serve their TV content when you just want to sit down and relax?

  9. I know the 360 isn’t perfect, but it does work.

    In the MS Exec’s house I visited, there was a 360 connected to every TV in the house (there were like 12) and to the main projector in the theater. In fact the 360 sat right next to the $20k Media Center in the Theater’s rack and yet the 360 was still used to watch live TV and not the Media Center itself.

    I mean why can’t it be both? Why can’t we have TV on the PC and use the 360 as an Extender? One doesn’t interfere with the other after all.

  10. One doesn’t interfere with the other in home use, but it sure does in development.  I don’t believe Microsoft can handle both.  In fact, just the backlash from users will be enough to have them pick one and go with it.  

    It has also been clear that people are not interested in having Xbox 360 all over their home.  This has been shown time and time again.

    Almost all of the core features in Media Center rely on third parties.  If Microsoft can’t keep them interested (eg. if they are not selling millions of units) at some point the product has to change shape.

  11. At $200 per, an Xbox is a viable extender for several rooms. It’s a much better product than the crap linksys dma2100. The only downside to the xbox is buying a $100 wireless extender.

  12. You might be mistaken that people are willing to spend $200 on several Xbox’s. This has been proven wrong time and time again by Microsoft, their OEMs, etc. There is a video interview somewhere with Tim Cutting from Niveus Media saying that they always have resistance on getting even high-end customers to buy Xbox’s for a equipment rack they don’t even see.

  13. I agree about the XBox360, in its current form, as not being a viable extender. Even with an XBox360 Arcade priced not that much more than a DMA2200, I chose the DMA2200 for my bedroom MCE extender due to its silent operation and the fact that I would never play games on the XBox360 in the bedroom, so the “extra” gaming functionality seemed to be an extra unnecessary cost.

    What is preventing Microsoft from creating a fanless version of the XBox360, dedicated as an MCE Extender? Basically a fanless Arcade “mini”, priced in the $100-150 range.

  14. Microsoft would lose money on such a machine. Plus, there is no market for them as has been proved by the various OEMs who keep dropping them.

    I love Extender’s, but if they don’t sell it doesn’t make sense for a company to keep making them.

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