Michael Gartenberg on Longhorn

Micheal Gartenberg: “Of course, Microsoft needs to make sure that it’s core business customers get on board and make the shift but it also must make Longhorn a consumer success for what’s at stake there is the future of the digital home. Considering that Microsoft has not done as well in some core consumer digital markets, such as music, the stakes are even higher.”

Gartenberg’s opinion is interesting and I’d tend to agree.

One possible way to blow this thing up is to make an already cumbersome Media Center PC even that much more cumbersome by loading it down with restrictions and DRM. Sometimes I really get frustrated because when I try to access files on my home network I’m told by my Media Center PC that I don’t have access to these files and to contact my network administrator. My network adminstrator? Give me a friggin’ break. I can get into some folders but subfolders seem to be off limits. This despite the fact that I’ve checked off on acknowledging risks etc., and have told my other PCs to go ahead and share their drives and all the subfolders in their drives. It’s little things like this that drive me crazy. I don’t know if it’s a bug or what but it’s frustrating.

Other times I’ll be copying files from one drive to another drive and I get an error message that an I/O device error has taken place and I have to start my back up all over again. It also frustrates me when it takes me days to get video working on my Media Center because I forget and don’t realize that I need to reinstall a third party decoder after I upgrade my MCE machines. Or it’s frustrating when my HP upgrade doesn’t include the files necessary to burn to DVD. etc. etc.

Now I’m by no means a computer programmer — but I’m also by no means a novice. And as these things frustrate me, I worry that as Microsoft continues down the path to the high school prom with Hollywood that this could have bad consequences for the end user. HDTV is important and maybe in the end there is no other way to get this done, but I worry that it will not be foolproof and that a time will come when Microsoft refuses me the right or complicates my ability to use media that I’ve purchased and then I’ll get angry and write about it as will others.

Microsoft should of course be aware that no matter how willing a partner Hollywood is at the dance it is much more desireable for them to see the Media Center PVR, digital media, etc. efforts fail than anything else.

Would a better solution be to create a technology to capture a HDTV stream between the cable box and the TV, record it without restriction (remember BetaMax?), and fight the bastards in court? Would a better solution be to completely empower the consumer and scorch and burn the rest of Hollywood, accept that digital piracy will take place and see what content survives (trust me it will)? Might Microsoft then sell millions and millions of copies of Media Center that could arguably claim fair use and in an age when TiVo wants to shoot adds at you, ironically as a liberator of the TV commercial, differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace? Would the lucrative sale of operating systems make up for the lack of profits to be found in helping Hollywood protect their content? Irrespective of ethical or moral considerations which would make more economic sense for the company?

Gartenberg says that Microsoft will battle in the coming months for the hearts and mind of their users. How will Microsoft win my heart with Longhorn as it relates to digital media and most specifically music, photos, movies and TV? Time may tell.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Well once again I see your point. It just seems like we (the end user) are in for an old fashion bend over excersise.
    MS is trying to make money on both sides of the field. From Hollywood, by selling the DRM tech, and from the user by selling us the software. Playing Both sides almost always fails. They have to pick a side.
    The MCE machine is a glorified VCR. You can record your shows and watch them as often as you like. It is convience that it adds that the VCR did not have. The problem comes in that with the fact that they are digital files and having an internet connection you can easily share them. Unlike the VCR. In my view this is not MS problem. Just because they make the technology to do these things does not mean they are responsible for others sharing it.
    Take a dvd for instance. When you buy it you purchase the right to use it basically forever. But point in fact the media doesn’t last forever. It degrades, it scratches, etc. So my right to make that a digital copy and watch it from my computer should be protected. I do not believe I have the right to give it away, but I believe in my right to store it and watch it in anyway I choose.
    For instace I have over 300 dvd’s archived in my home and with a thrid party program I can watch them and share them on both MCE machines in my home. This is truley media on demand. What is the difference to hollywood if I actually put the disc in or pull it up digitally. Why do they have the right to tell me how I can consume my media.
    As for HDTV…if your going to broadcast it and products can record it then Hollywood is out of luck. It is like the internet..if you don’t want any virisis then don’t go on the net.

  2. Media Player says:

    Content is protected, to enable you to play protected content Microsoft must partner with the content owners. At the same time, Microsoft is siding with DRM. You gain being able to legally play protected content, the ultimate goal for the average consumer! Playing the disc they just spent $30 on. It seems so simple, but it’s not anymore.

    It’s a win, lose game on both sides.

    Content owners/protection side
    Win: The content owners. They get to keep their content protected.
    Lose: Microsoft is supporting the further use of rights management. Locking us into this for years.

    Consumer side
    Win: We get the content on our PC’s
    Lose: Microsoft is supporting the further use of rights management. Locking us into this for years.

    I don’t see a win/win solution in the near future. Microsoft can’t just play “F*** you” card and expect it to work. This is all about business on both sides. Microsoft is a near $40 billion corporation, smart business know this and will exploit it.

    If Microsoft were to enable people to “pirate” material after content owners had applied protection to it, I would sure as hell be looking for a piece of that $40 billion pie. Microsoft would have a hard time fighting any company it they deliberately did that, I don’t care what anyone thinks about they being able to win that. Anyone can bring up older examples of were companies got away with stuff like this, but most of those were before the DMCA and all the other crap we now get to deal with.

    Look at it another way, Microsoft has been aiming at Hollywood since WM9 series was released. They even did their “release party” for WM9 Series in Hollywood! When they hear about HD-DVD and Blu-Ray coming around, and knowing that in today’s world it’s going to be protected, you think they are not going to jump on that and see how they can make you be able to do more with the media (eg play it on your PC)?

    If it wasn’t for Microsoft the AACS for HD-DVD would most likely not include the ability to rip and stream a copy throughout your house. Anyone think that was something that Disney really wanted? Probably not. If it wasn’t for a mix of IBM, Intel, and Microsoft playing an HD-DVD in a PC wouldn’t be. After DeCSS (allows current DVD ripping) why would the AACS want to enable playback of PCs? Toshbia, Panasonic, and Sony really want to sell you their HD-DVD players, they would much rather do that then you have you play the title in your PC. Plus, playing on a STB DVD player means it’s much harder to break, the goal of the content owners!

    Microsoft is doing what they must to make the consumer happy, it doesn’t seem like it but they are. All of this is needed and as much as we hate it, it’s going to be there. Don’t want it there? Don’t upgrade to Longhorn and/or don’t expect to be playing future media on your PC (and some current media, back to our HDTV in Media Center issue).

    Chris