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Why No Respect for Media Center?

January 11, 2007

Since Apple’s press conference, Apple TV has received respectful coverage even as the product pale innovation compared with the perhaps prematurely named iPhone.

Meanwhile, Vista Media Center gets almost no attention aside from references to the fact that CableCard hardware will finally be available at the end of January.

What’s missing is any discussion of the potentially revolutionary effect of Vista Media Center to host applications written in the new Media Center Markup Language (MCML) and have them run on Xbox360’s and other new media center extenders

Why is this revolutionary? Because for the first time people will be able to run all types of applications on Media Center Extenders. The capabilities of MCML applications far exceed what was possible under XP Media Center with its hosted HTML applications. The MCML applications need not even be installed on a Media Center PC, instead they can run from a site on the Internet. That means no longer would applications need to be updated on the users PC, they could simply be updated wherever on the Internet they were hosted. This provides power and flexibility in getting applications to users PCs that far exceeds any of the other set top boxes out there.

A theme of this years CES was trying to get Internet content into people’s living rooms, i.e. onto their TV. AppleTV is an obvious attempt to do this, as is the new DLink Media Lounge. But because these approaches are centered on the set top box rather than a PC with accessible development tools, they are quite limited. In contrast Vista Media Center potentially brings all of the strengths of PC development (e.g. a plethora of solutions being offered to the market) to bear in getting Internet content onto your TV. I have seen no other solution that is even close.

The one thing holding Media Center back in my view is the lack of a simple, stable Media Center Server that doesn’t also try to be a PC. Perhaps with Vista Media Center this won’t be as big an issue, but without this you face the issues like a PC user of a media center PC having to reboot the PC and bringing down the extender sessions. I love our current home system: a dedicated Media Center box (cost: about $1200 for 2 SD and 2 HD tuners) in a basement room, with four Xbox 360s elsewhere in the house. You get the reliability of a consumer electronics device in the Xbox 360 and the flexibility, power and centralized management of a PC– all for the cost of less than 3 HD Tivos.

This will only get better with the inevitable explosion of MCML applications for Vista Media Center. Why is no one writing about the potential this has?

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4 Comments
  1. Michael permalink

    Yeah, you are so right. Windows Media Center seems so way better than Apple TV, although the iphone still seems cool.  Apple does seem to get a lot of the postive press around them. It’s probaly because they think anything from Apple is fantastic, even if Microsoft already developed something like that, or did something that neat that Apple hasn’t done yet. And then the fanboys of either company gets riled up, and it’s just all stupid. I am so not a fanboy of anybody, I only judge by the products of a company, not by the company itself.

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