I’m an avid TV and movie watcher. Being a parent to three young kids as well, limits the amount of adult activities I can do outdoors, and so in exchange I’ve got the biggest TV package through my provider, Cablevision. I get every channel — HBO, Showtime, Encore, etc — just minus the sports networks that are addons. And I love watching TV. A few years ago my TV experience was enhanced greatly, when I invested into Windows Media Center. And it’s awesome. Just ask Engadget — they say it beats the pants off of Tivo. Not to mention, with my lowly investment of a few hundred bucks to make my PC “TV Ready” (which includes a Ceton InfiniTV4 card to tune/record 4 channels at once), I’ve saved hundreds on “box rental” fees. Just a little simple math… I paid $40 for two boxes every month, so every year I’d pay $480 for just renting the box. I pay $3 a month for a CableCard rental. I broke even on my investment before a year was up, and the experience is a lot better. You can investigate it yourself, and with a little bit of technical knowhow you can do the same thing. Or you can buy Ceton’s upcoming “Q”, which has a built-in Blu Ray player as well.
But let’s forget this for a moment. Microsoft decided recently that Windows 8 shouldn’t have Media Center installed by default. In fact, there leaves little reason for Windows 7 Media Center users to upgrade *at all*. Media Center for Windows 8 is virtually identical to Windows 7’s version, and it now costs an additional $13 to boot. I understand the logic for charging for it, to reduce the cost of Windows… but what Microsoft really needs to do is reboot the entire enterprise, and market the heck out of it.
Let’s start with the simple stuff. Media Center’s APIs suck. But Windows 8 is pretty darned good, and its APIs are very robust. So it’s time to bring the ORIGINAL Metro interface, into Windows 8 and the RT environment. It’s time to let Media Center aggregate all kinds of content — we are moving into a digital world, and Netflix, Amazon, and everybody else is getting into the game. Why not give them a platform worth writing for, one that still lives in your living room on your television, but also provides the PC a way to interact with all this great content? Windows 8 APIs make this possible. We just need the base software to be there. So without further ado… I present the new Media Center (courtesy Sputnik8 on TheVerge):
This is what we need. A new UI for Media Center. It needs to aggregate content from different providers (Amazon, Hulu, Spotify, Picasa, Netflix) and be developer friendly (Which the current Media Center is not, which is why you see a lack of addons). It needs to be able to be used by mobile devices, and other PCs — a limitation that annoys me to no end because I have to use an Xbox 360 as an ‘extender’ rather than just using another PC and a software link into my main HTPC.
The ironic thing about this of course, is that Google, Apple and other companies have been trying to crack the perfect recipe for intelligent TV for a long time. And every person who sees my setup in my house is amazed at all I can do with my media, all I can catalog, all I can display, and all I can interact with in an intelligent fashion. I can record TV and play back with ease, but also find ‘similar movies’ upcoming in my guide, or even search on the actors in the same show in a very simple way, with only a few clicks on a REMOTE. Microsoft *HAS* the winning recipe. It needs to modernize it, update its extensibility, and market the heck out of it in specialized devices like Ceton’s Q. The money savings usually make it a no-brainer by itself, as the cost of these devices is minor compared to what you pay in cable box rental fees. And the nice thing is if you switch providers, you keep all your recordings, and all your scheduled recordings.
So Microsoft — wake the hell up, push a new version of Media Center and slap AppleTV and GoogleTV in the face with an idea that is 8 years old.