6.5 million Windows XP Media Center Edition-based PCs and Other Thoughts I Had on Bill Gate’s Keynote CES Presentation Tonight
Bill Gates CES Keynote (Chris Pirillo) Chris Pirillo has a pretty good recap of Gates talk tonight. Engadget has an even better one. Scoble covered it as well. I watched a streaming version online as I won’t arrive at CES until 1pm tomorrow.
The big news out of the keynote in my opinion? 6.5 million Media Center PCs shipped to date. That’s a huge number. At CES last year Gates gave us a number of 1.4 million and this is obviously substantially higher. In an interview that I blogged last year with the BBC Gates had said, “as these devices come out, we will be able to double the sales every year for a number of years.” Well moving from 1.4 million Media Center PCs to 6.5 million is quite a bit better than doubling their sales.
Of course one major change that we did see this year was the fact that many of the major OEMs began shipping Media Center as the default choice which raises the question of how many of those 6.5 million Media Center PCs shipped to date are actually really being used primarily as Media Center PCs vs. home office PCs that happen to have Media Center installed. A good comparison number could be the number of Media Center PCs that have shipped with TV tuners but I did not hear that number come out of tonight’s keynote talk.
Vista was obviously the biggest story. Well that and the super hot and sexy HDTV talk and capabilities. Vista looked slick on stage as did the XBox 360. I was slightly disappointed in watching the Media Center presentation to see Microsoft hype the speed and performance improvements of the Media Center digital library by showing us how it performed with 10,000 songs and 1,000 albums. Quite frankly Media Center handles 10,000 songs just fine today. Where you run into problems are the truly large libraries. I would have like to have seen them demo it with 100,000 tunes. That would have been far more impressive to me.
I was also worried, as I’ve expressed in the past, by Microsoft’s continued involvement with things like Starz new Vongo service. They once again mentioned Vongo in the keynote and I worry that our ability to copy recorded programming from our Media Center PCs over to our laptops or portable devices is going to be crippled due to pressure from the Starz of the world as they try and collect an additional $9.99 per month from us for content that we are already paying for and recording with our Media Center PVRs. I’m not sure how all this will play out via Vista DRM but I am not optimistic.
They also hyped Urge their new music download service with MTV. Yawn. I’m not much interested in any service that is going to give me DRM laden tracks when I can rip my own crystal clear DRM free mp3s myself.
Live.com came up again and also having your friends recommend shows for you. There may be something here but I’d have to try it out first. Right now I don’t really feel like my TiVo gets me and I’ve never seen any recommendation technology that I’ve really been impressed with. Amazon probably comes the closest but even there I’m a hard nut to figure out.
The little Toshiba video player held by Joe (so that’s what he looks like) and his self proclaimed “little hands.” Sheesh, who would *ever* want to watch TV or movies on that? How can you possibly see the picture? And only four hours battery? I’ll take my laptop any day and I can get tons of content for that as it is just by copying recorded TV and movies on my network from my Media Center PC. Will the laptop be an “approved device” to copy content over to with Vista or will we be forced into using these tiny little Toshiba things in order to get the HDTV content off our boxes?
Comedy Central has joined Online Spotlight which now boasts over 110 Online Spotlight Partners. I’m still not 100% ready to fall all over myself with Online Spotlight yet. There is virtually no high definition content available via the service yet and much of the content is low res sucky video. Much of the long tail stuff available through things like Akimbo suffers from complex pricing models that require subscriptions AND pay per view charges.
ExtremeTech did a review earlier last month where they were less than impressed with the Online Spotlight service themselves, “The Windows Media Center team needs to take some hints from the Xbox Live experience, and enforce some user interface and system integration standards. While some applications and content delivery schemes worked just fine, others were tedious to install and more difficult to use than they needed to be. Some didn’t work at all.” Honestly I don’t find myself using it all that much either. It still feels clunky to me and many of the services require additional software to be installed (and in the case of Akimbo upfront credit card numbers to even try the free trial period).
I’ve still yet to see any Online Spotlight content to really get me excited yet. Where’s the high def content? Where’s stuff from Google Video, Our Media and the Internet Archive? Why not have MSN aggregate all the free video floating around the internet and put together a custom channel of hot micro content? Where’s my beloved Flickr? Even NewsGator, my RSS reader of choice, feels clunky to me in Online Spotlight. Why can’t I configure it to only show me the stuff I haven’t seen instead of *all* my feeds? For Pete’s sake, where is even Scoble’s own Channel 9?
Anywho. Less than impressed by the keynote I guess. Liked how slick Vista looked, all the super cool XBox 360 graphics and especially all the talk of HDTV everywhere. Still I worry that I’ll lose functionality and control with Vista, that Online Spotlight is missing the most compelling content and that Vista will still clunk along with my (much larger than 10,000 tunes) digital library. Hopefully as 2006 unfolds these concerns of mine quickly melt away.