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Permalink to this day Thursday, December 30, 2004

TDavid, Reasons why we returned Windows Media Center 2005. I certainly don't expect TDavid to unreturn his Media Center but I'm sure he'd appreciate a response to his complaints about it.

It took an embarassing amount of time to figure out how to exit MCE 2005 mode

This is where I admit that I was the one who designed this. I'll post something later explaining the design process but the short answer is that if you want to exit MCE it is because you want to use a traditional desktop application. All desktop applications require a mouse and so using a mouse to close MCE by clicking the top right 'x' is a discoverable task.

No auto recording feature based upon user ratings like TiVO

We do not have this. I wasn't involved in the process of deciding why not, but I can imagine that we simply prioritized other features as more important than this one. I imagine, one of those features would be our movie portal which you can access by pressing Start > My TV > Movies. It shows you what movies are on now, on next, and enables you to browse all the movies you might watch/record on tv. Was this the right decision? Wrong decision? That's a question that is very hard to answer.

Inability to watch a different program while recording

With two tuner cards in your MCE or a dual tuner card you can do this. You can even do this for digital cable set top boxes though it requires you to have two cable set top boxes.

DVD playback as mentioned in my other post was better through our $79 progressive scan DVD player directly into TV

Without knowing which MCE you had bought or which TV you have its hard to discuss this one. Though it sounds like it was not connected with the best possible connection to your HDTV.

To extend the media capabilities into another room would require the addition of another $300 Media Extender device?

Yes, or an XBox plus the $54 XBox Extender kit, or another networked computer or networked Media Center. I imagine OEMs do not bundle Extenders with Media Centers because it would significantly increase the base cost.

What's up with the power consumption?

This is interesting feedback that I haven't heard before. There are a large variety of different Media Centers on the market, each, I imagine, with different power comsumption levels. As we do not manufacture the hardware the best we can do is make a recommendation to OEMs to consider this when designing their machines.

Multitasking as computer with TV watching option (not!).

It would be quite difficult to setup a MCE box to be used both as a TV and as a home office computer. which is why we have the Extenders which would accomplish this for you, though as you mention the price is too high for you.

Sure, you can listen to your music through the TV, but how many families actually do that?

In our apartment we listen to our music exclusively through the MCE TV. In fact, we probably spend more time listening to music than watching TV. The reason I prefer using MCE to listen to my music is because I couldn't imagine any other way of quickly accessing the 700 albums that I have. Especially considering my tendency to throw out CDs after ripping them.

Who is the MCE 2005 for? ...Unless Microsoft answers these relatively easy questions from a marketing standpoint...

Great question. Sean, are you reading this? This is more your department than mine. (Sean is our marketing guy).

Again, I'm sorry to hear you returned it, we work hard every day to make it simpler, easier to use, and it won't be long before Media Center as well as the Extender reach a palatable price point.
6:38:33 PM  Permalink to this item []

It took long enough but there has finally been some negative articles about Media Center. When we launched I had just spent months starring at long lists of bugs deciding which lucky few would get fixed. Knowing that we were unable to fix some bugs I expected all the initial reviews to be negative, but they weren't, the were all very positive. Now that the product has been out for a few months the reviewers are finally speaking up:

Investor's Business Daily, Media Center PCs So Far Not In Starring Role:

The window of opportunity could be closing for Windows media center PCs to gain a foothold in people's living rooms.

It is not. Consumers are just starting to get excited about higher end multimedia experiences.

One issue is price, Kay says. Retail prices for a media center PC in the U.S. averaged $1,273 in October, says the NPD Group. That compares with $729 for all desktop PCs.
I agree that if you want to buy a living room Media Center PC then the cost will be upwards of $1200; and this drives me nuts! Why? Because a hobbyist can build a living room Media Center PC for around $850. That's just $100 more than your average desktop PC. Why can't OEM's simply drop their prices a bit? Perhaps, once we see more volume from OEMs and system builders that $1273 will converge around a $850 price point. I suspect the OEM's are keeping the price points for these machines high because their desktop machines are in danger of being commoditized and so their margins are being eroded. MCE machine's allow them to keep those higher margins.

Inferior earlier versions of the product might have tainted opinion.
I believe it was reported at the launch of MCE 2005 that we sold 1 million units of the earlier 'inferior' versions. I hardly doubt that those 1 million units were so inferior and so widely used and talked about that they were able to widely taint public opinion :).
Retailers haven't done a good job of presenting the media center PC category in their stores, says NPD analyst Steve Baker. The same goes for their handling of other convergence products, like TiVo, he says.
I totally agree. Both Microsoft, OEM's, and customers need to put more pressure on retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, and Magnolia to do a better job selling these devices. But then again while shopping around for a high end TV I concluded that none of them did a decent job retailing TVs so it is no surprise that they can't retail Media Center PCs.
Consumers might decide it's easier to just buy a PVR from TiVo or their cable or satellite provider rather than buy a full-function PC. Plus, finding a place for the PC next to their TV can be a problem.
Yes they might. Which is why Microsoft is also in that business :). But for a consumer that wants more than just PVR functionality then they will turn to the Media Center which does not just basic TV, but movies, DVDs, photos, music and connects to the other devices in your home. Also, our user experience is vastly superior to that of any of the set top box PVRs.

As for finding space, there are a number of units that look just like a receiver so fitting it into your rack should not present a problem.

Phillip Swann, Biggest Flop of 2005: The Media Center PC:

Consumers see the Media Center PC, whether it's from Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard or Gateway, as just another personal computer -- and a more expensive one at that with prices running more than $1,000. Although the Media Center is supposed to be an entertainment device (it enables you to watch TV on your PC and transfer music and photos to your TV), the vast majority of Americans will never -- I will repeat that -- never think of the PC as an entertainment device. The PC is for work and the TV is for relaxation. End of story.

The premise of Phillip's article is that since American's do not view the PC as an entertainment device then the Media Center PC will not succeed. I would argue that many American's do view their PC's as entertainment devices. There are numerous studies that I am too lazy to link to :) that point out just how much time American's spending surfing the web and playing PC based games. Never mind downloading MP3s and ripped movies. If the PC was NOT an entertainment device then the RIAA and MPAA would not be so concerned about shutting down Kazaa and Bit Torrent.

Also, I guess no one has pointed out to Phillip that the inside of the XBox is a PC.

Slashdot, Windows Media Center Edition vs. The World:

Meanwhile, from what I can tell much more powerful alternatives to Microsoft's MCE bloatware are thriving: commercial products like Snapstream (see their 6-tuner Medusa PVR built for about $1200), Showshifter and open-source freeware like Mediaportal and MythTV.

I will continue to be skeptical about competitors like Snapstream and MythTV until they are as easy to setup as MCE.

From what I've read about Microsoft MCE and all of its DRM and content restrictions, I have to agree with both of these articles.

I'd love to hear more about 'all of [our] DRM and content restrictions'. You are free to copy your recorded TV off and play it back on any other Windows based PC (with the exception of HBO since HBO has enabled the CGMS-A broadcast flag).

Thomas Hawk, Media Center PCs So Far Not In Starring Role:

1. The decision that was made NOT to aggressively pursue HDTV capabilty early in the process and still eludes the product today while satellite and cable providers are aggressively offering HDTV DVR products and even getting into the business of marketing HDTVs directly.

2. The fact that as it currently stands, Media Center Edition demos horribly in my home due to the extremely slow performance of "my music". As a hopeful evangelist for the product every person that I show the system to in my home, and there have been many, are put off by the long wait times associated with playing music on the system.

I can't directly comment on Thomas's first point, but I would like to suggest that the reason we don't yet have non-OTA HDTV support is primarily a policy issue not a technology one. Complain about/to the studios, not to Mirosoft. The Media Center team is staffed with hundreds of TV addicts who all want to do cable and satellite HDTV, myself included.

For Thomas' second point. The size of his music collection places him in the 99.9999 percentile of Media Center users. Though we are aware of the problem, and so is the WMP team, and this will absolutely be addressed in future releases. For the record I have about 7000 MP3s and have no problems with the performance of the music library. I can only wish to have Thomas's problem of having so many songs that it breaks most music software :).

Matt Goyer

Since everyone else has had a go at MCE, what are my complaints?

  1. Cable HDTV - Yeah, I really want to record cable HDTV.
  2. Stability - I'm surprised no one else has brought this up but I have some issues with TV stability. It isn't deleting the right shows, refuses to record new ones and needs to be rebooted more often than it should be.

3:03:32 PM  Permalink to this item []

NY Times, Streamlined Cable TV in a Card:
As it turns out, hammering out the CableCard standard wasn't especially quick or amicable.

In fact, it took years.

2:18:02 PM  Permalink to this item []

Build Your Own TEATRO D1 Style PC ala A-Tech Fabrication
11:40:38 AM  Permalink to this item []

© Copyright 2005 Matt Goyer.
I work at Microsoft in the eHome division on the Windows XP Media Center Edition team as a Program Manager.

Disclaimer: The posts on this weblog are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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Updated: 4/11/2005; 10:31:11 PM.