The Media Center Tax
The Media Center Tax — InsideMicrosoft – part of the Blog News Channel Inside Microsoft has an excellent follow up post to my post asking the other day why anyone would pay $9.99 for Vongo when you can basically do the same thing with your Media Center PC for free.
They put it much more clearly than I do in terms of those not using Media Center to get their remote content as being victims of a Media Center Tax.
“In my mind, every time you purchase a show from iTunes, every time you purchase a subscription to a movie channel you already get on your cable, you are paying the “Lack of Media Center Tax”. You are paying, in a way that is painfully obvious, for not having bought a Windows Media Center PC.
Sure, if you buy one or two episodes of Lost from iTunes, that’s no big deal, but if you are one of those people that use the service religiously, you are just plain losing out. Lets see:
* Imaginary PC: $600
* iPod with video: $300
* One 22-episode season of TV: $44
* The same PC bought with Media Center (free) and a TV tuner and remote control and IR receiver (add $100 @ Dell): $700
* Creative Zen Portable Media Center: $258 (and can be had for $180-190, depending on rebates)
* One TV episode, recorded off TV and synced to your device: $0″
I’d never really thought about having to use a pay download service as a Media Center tax but they illustrate this point very very well.
Inside Microsoft also doubts that we will see copying restrictions for programming set into Vista. “if Microsoft did that, we’d all stick with Windows XP Media Center Edition, and never upgrade to Vista on our Media Centers, or alternatively, we’d use an alternative program that didn’t have such awful restrictions.” Here I’m not so sure that I agree though. The big trade off gambit is HDTV. You will not be able to get CableCARD supported HDTV without Vista. Vista has the DRM protection schemes in place which allowed Microsoft to get CableLabs to approve the Media Center PC as a device.
The trade off will be that without Vista you will be restricted to OTA HDTV. I sure hope that Inside Microsoft is right though and that we can continue to copy files from our Media Center PCs to our laptops unabatted with Vista but I do get worried when I hear that Microsoft is the very one working with Vongo to create their service. I worry that Microsoft won’t want to upset their important and lucrative partner Starz and thus could be pressured into putting technology in place to prohibit us from copying Starz content over to our laptops — and even with MCE XP.
Of course time will tell on this and I do hope that my concerns are overblown.