The Complications of Being MCE

Michael Gartenberg – What’s missing in the digital hubs of today Gartenberg writes, “I’ve been using a Media Center PC as one of the hubs in the house and it works well for the most part. It serves content to other devices and even acts as a media server to the Orb client on my mobile devices. Except when it doesn’t work. Like for the last two days when my extender kept losing the link to my MCE for no apparent reason.”

Gartenberg gets it right. The complexity of the Media PC is what scares the pants off the average consumer. He adds, “On the other hand, my TiVo is rock solid.” and goes on to say, “I want both flexibility of content, the ability to add new features and rock solid reliability. I can’t seem to get those things today which is what’s leading to an ad-hoc series of solutions.”

Couldn’t’ agree more Michael. As someone with a dual system in my living room (an MCE box for media and some tv and a separate HDTV TiVo for HDTV) I can feel your pain.

Microsoft needs to seriously step up the bug fixes in Media Center and Windows Media Player. But even more important than developing a path to a bugless PC (will such a thing ever exist?) is that support is handled properly. In my own opinion people become much less hostile when they have someone who can help them.

While Microsoft certainly can’t have every blow hard (blow harder Hawk, blow harder) calling up their software engineers the current system of outsourcing aftermarket support to the OEM is quite frankly pathetic.

I’ve often thought about putting out a podcast series of bad tech support calls for the sheer humor of it. You know, you’ll be waiting for the PC to copy something and while you’re sitting there chatting with the HP guy you’ll throw something out there like do you use Firefox or IE — just to pass the time and you get an answer back like I don’t know anything about what, Firefox? I think that’s some kind of spyware (I’m not even kidding).

Or, (me to an HP tech support guy): “So are you familiar with the Media Center operating system?” Answer: “to be honest, not really, but I’ve heard it’s going to be coming out soon.” Again, I’m not even kidding.

A long time ago I bought a Microsoft wireless router. I don’t know if you remember it or not but before abandoning the product Microsoft briefly was out there competing directly with Linksys and the rest of them. Of course as might be expected after I hooked it up I had all kinds of problems — but do you know what? With that product for some reason Microsoft provided actual Microsoft tech support. And do you know what. It was good. Very good. They quickly troubleshot my problems and were extremely bright and competent professionals.

So how about that Microsoft? How about taking the tech support back from HP and Gateway and Dell and the rest of the bozos who don’t know the difference between a driver and mouse? This way you won’t have Michael Gartenberg and Thomas Hawk and the rest of us telling the rest of the world how buggy and complex a Media Center PC is adding to the problem of your message. Think of it as proactive marketing but in a round about way.

I honestly think that the bugs are only about 15% of the problem. People expect bugs. But if you have someone competent to walk you through fixing the problem that’s really the more important 85% of it.

Instead of having Gartenberg spend two days screwing around with his Media Center PC and blogging about it, how about having him blog about how you guys solved his problem for him in 15 minutes. As far as I’m concerned, the marketing message that a Media Center PC is too complicated and complex is of your own making until you do something to adequately address support.

Yes, it will cost money to do this, but trust me, it will be money better spent than the $20 million that you and Intel laid down for “Digital Joy.” And if you sell a boatload more copies of the MCE software it will pay for itself in the long run.

And you could, by the way, even charge for it. I paid $99 for an extended warranty with HP that included lifetime telephone support. I’d much have preferred to give this money directly to Microsoft and had you guys fixing my wagon instead.

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