Well Microsoft probably just incorporated my number one Media Center feature request into Media Center, unfortunately though they have decided *not* to include this support for the Media Center extender. Beginning immediately Windows Vista Media Center users can watch Netflix “Watch Now” programming on their Media Center PCs.
I am a *huge* fan of Microsoft Media Center’s Technology. At present it allows me to consume free OTA HDTV (along with a killer DVR), access my entire music library and playlists, access all of my photos in my library, and access some of my home video files (unfortunately the Media Center doesn’t support video files from the new Canon 5D M2 and I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to convert these files yet — Apple does support these files in Qucktime by the way). All of this great technology is done on my Media Center PC in my attic. Then, best of all, I can stream all of this content seamlessly to XBox 360s extender units in my living room, bedroom and kitchen (you know, sort of the places where you consume this kind of media as opposed to up in my attic).
Now, a bunch of sites are abuzz this morning about Netflix Watch Now coming to the Media Center PC. But what’s so great about this? Personally, if Microsoft won’t let me consume this content on an extender unit, what good is that? If I want to watch Netflix Watch Now on an actual PC, I can just go directly to the Netflix page and watch it. While it’s probably a tiny bit better to watch it in Media Center (saves me a step or going directly to a website) it’s really not that big of an advancement.
Now Microsoft will probably say, yeah but… you can already stream Netflix watch now on an XBox 360. But there are several problems with this technology as it stands now.
1. Not everyone is using an XBox 360 as an extender unit. Other extender units are left out in the cold.
2. Streaming Watch Now to an XBox 360 requires a lame Microsoft Live Gold membership. I don’t want a Microsoft Live Gold Membership. I don’t do any gaming. I hate the fact that I have to pay for this membership that I don’t want in order to see my Netflix Watch Now service that I’m already paying Netflix for.
3. It’s a pain in the ass to have to log into my Live Gold membership every single time I turn my XBox 360 on before I can get to my Netflix Watch Now Service.
4. It sucks that it is *extremely* difficult to watch Netflix Watch Now on multiple XBox 360s. The only way to do this is to go through a cumbersome processing of reclaiming your existing gamer tag on a new box. Since there is no keyboard with my XBox 360s, this involves me going through about a five minute process of entering in passwords, email addresses, and lots of other information with a little XBox 360 game controller just in order to say watch a movie in my living room instead of in my bedroom. It frustrates my wife even more than me.
Now if today’s announcement also included a promise that Microsoft is still working on extender support and hopes to have it in the near future I’d be very happy. But there is no promise that we will ever see Watch Now support on Media Center extender units and so today’s news in my opinion is worse than no news or feature at all.
My own personal belief is that Hollywood and the studios do NOT want you to have Netflix Watch now in an easy way to consume on your television set at all, ever. They make much more money off of you by showing you TV with commercials or making you watch the content on DVD than they do when they revenue share streaming money with Netflix. By giving you Netflix in Media Center (but only on the PC where you could just as easily just watch it on Netflix’s site) they’ve given you really nothing at all. Without a promise of future extender support today’s news is pretty disappointing to me actually.
You can read the official Microsoft page on this news here. The more interesting conversation though is happening over at The Green Button here — where the hardcore Media Center geeks hang out.
The great promise of Media Center extender technology was that it would bring anything you could do on a PC to quieter, easier devices connected to your television set in the networked and connected home. By crippling this important technology and restricting it from Media Center extender devices this is a step backwards. Heck, I’d even pay Microsoft the same $50 a year to have this on my extender than I pay for the lame XBox Live Gold Membership that I’ve got now.