Microsoft Has New Mission for Media Center

Microsoft Has New Mission for Media Center Chris Lanier links to an eWeek article on the Media Center roll out. Although I’d love to beat the drum on this one I think the key ingredient still missing is premium HDTV (no surprise here from those that read this blog).

“Price has played a major role in the increase in shipments of Media Center PCs seen of late. Manufacturers began offering the operating system in under-$1,000 desktops earlier this year, leading to huge year-over-year leaps in Media Center sales at retail in the United States, analysts said.”

Ummm… yes and no. Certainly opening up the operating system to any OEM on any PC vs. the previous method of only allowing approved PCs has been more responsible than anything. This is not new news with the rollout. Add to the fact that Dell and Gateway now configure all desktop PCs with Media Center by default and you get the numbers.

The more meaningful number in my perspective is how many people are actually using the new Media Center to watch TV. I don’t have the sales data on MCE units sold with TV tuners but I’d say factoring this in is a more relevant measure of the product’s success. It’s a cheap add on otherwise. The point of Media Center is to centralize and control all your media. If someone is watching TV on another device I don’t consider that particular sale to be mission accomplished. The power of controlling your eyeballs is huge and TV plays a big roll in that.

“Based on what Microsoft has said thus far, Rollup Update 2 is expected to be available as a free download and to include support for the Media Center Extender technologies that are being built into Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming consoles.” Good news. I can’t imagine the backlash if they tried to charge for it and it’s in Microsoft’s interest to give us extender functionality for free to try and get us all to buy XBoxes. Just smart marketing on their part is all.

“The update will support 200-disc DVD changers that will come to market this fall, and will add a provision for a second high-definition tuner card for handling high-definition video and HDTV signals.” 200-disc DVD changers? I could care less. I don’t want to consume my movies on DVD, I want to consume downloads. Give me HDTV video on demand. And if I do watch a DVD I’m going to rent it from someone like Netflix not buy it. The exception would be kids movies and those are more for the car anyways. Two HD Tuners? Nice. Better than one. But people are not interested in consuming their television OTA. They want cable, satellite or IPTV. Perhaps this will change though.

“It will also add a new “Away Mode,” that will allow Media Center PCs to be shut down and started back up immediately, whereas it takes a few seconds to awake from sleep or hibernate modes at the touch of a button, the sources said.” Irrelevant.

“Microsoft also is expected to unveil a pack of new partners at this week’s Update Rollup 2 launch. Among them, according to Microsoft partners who asked not to be named, will be Akimbo Systems Inc., America Online Inc., Comedy Central and MTV Networks. America Online is expected to support the platform with photo and on-demand music service, for example. Akimbo and MTV can provide video content to Media Centers.” Interesting. How much of it will be high def? None? Photo service? AOL? Ugh. Come on give us Flickr. How hard can a Flickr plug in possibly be. They have an open API. You’ll spend the time pushing AOL photo sharing but not Flickr? Music on-demand service? I won’t pay for it.

Akimbo is interesting as is Brightcove if they are going to be rolled out in this rollout. Long tail content is good. Again, probably not high def though. I’ve been meaning to write something up on Akimbo. Perhaps the most promising content yet.

“Microsoft also is expected to add this week a new subsite to its Windows Marketplace shopping portal that will be dedicated to Windows Media Center plug-ins, including one for shopping on eBay Inc.’s online auction site. Windows Marketplace is Microsoft’s one-stop shop for software and services from both Microsoft and third-party providers that support the Windows platform.” Good for Microsoft and good for eBay. I could care less about it. I’d prefer they spend time developing things that will delight me rather than things that will make them money. Get the eyeballs and the money will follow later. I will not use shopping on my MCE machine and it will be yet one more thing I’ll need to disable.

“My guess is Microsoft’s trying to save as much splash as it can for Vista,” Kay said.

Additions such as instant wake-up might “make sense as maintenance release elements. But to create a lot of new features, particularly when [Microsoft] has to come up with another splash for a year from now, doesn’t seem like the thing to do,” he said, adding that Microsoft should “save as much juice as possible for its long awaited premier operating system.”

Probably very, very true.