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Summary:

For past few days there is a big debate has exploded over on Apple Matters, about Media Center and Front Row. Thomas Hawk who is an unabashed Windows Media Center Fanboy takes Mac-faithful to task and writes, “Yes, they created a product for the legions of […]

For past few days there is a big debate has exploded over on Apple Matters, about Media Center and Front Row. Thomas Hawk who is an unabashed Windows Media Center Fanboy takes Mac-faithful to task and writes, “Yes, they created a product for the legions of Apple fanboys to blindly buy, but the smart consumer is better capable of doing a comparison than Jobs might give them credit for.?” Today Charlie Owen, one of the members of Windows XP Media Center development team has joined the debate on his blog, and writes..

Steve Jobs comparing the Apple remote control with the Media Center remote control was nothing but sheer marketing brilliance. It’s totally not about which remote control is better. Not at all. By making this comparison, Steve Jobs gave the illusion the two products were on equal footing EXCEPT for the remote.

As the debate continues, I would like to chime in with a few things….

What Steve Jobs has done, and what Microsoft has not done. I have a HP Media Center at home, and I have spent countless weekends trying to make the beast work with the Comcast set-top box. The biggest problem is the smallest feature really – the damn IR Blaster – refuses to play nice. It fails every single time. I have done my darnest, but nothing. That my friends is the critical point – that ease of use is what Microsoft did not think about. I like the Media Center interface – its pretty much the best UI Microsoft has been able to come-up with despite their blue-and-green restrictions. (I thought that it would kill TiVo, but boy was I wrong. TiVo did it themselves!)

I have left the box in the A/V system, hooked it up to a Olevia 32 inch LCD TV via DVI interface and I use it to check out cool stuff available via the Media Center services. I am using all its features except the PVR. There were same IR issues with TiVo as well. This part of the set-up was painless and a no brainer. I think this is where Microsoft lost the plot, and did too much with the platform, which was truly made for early-early adopters. They should have seeded the market with a simpler product. They could have convinced a lot of people to start using their platform, because it was a virgin market they could have simply owned. Microsoft in my opinion, overreached.

front rowApple’s iPod success shows that its not being the first, or being the one with the greatest number of features that translates into market share. Instead it is helping millions of consumers ease into the digital lifestyle that is the key. Front Row is exactly that: It is simple, and eases you into this whole convergence thing. I am pretty sure they will add more features in coming months to this software. It is actually a very clever move on Apple’s part. It is clearly a placeholder, and a move that shows, they are throwing their hat in the ring. They are betting that in next 12-to-24 months the downloadable video market is going to gain strength, and they want people to think about the FrontRow as an option as well. By the time Broadband-over-Video market takes off (my guess is towards end of 2006), Apple will have a more complete offering.

MCESo what should Microsoft do? Two things. First release a Media Center XP Lite. Free. Basically help turn most of the newer PCs into simple devices for aggregating photos, watching DVDs, streaming music and playing back downloadable videos. They have the PC market share to make this happen. I think as Video over Broadband (or TV-over-IP) takes off, Media Center XP should shine, as it has support of many of the newer services like MTV Overdrive and BrightCove. Secondly, they should buy Akimbo. Use Akimbo’s content relationships and thus enhancing the value of their platform. If Microsoft sticks to “less is more” principle, then they could go toe-to-toe with Apple in this market.

PS: If you have a Media Center related plug-in/service, do let me know. I would love to review it!

  1. A media center lite would rock !

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  2. Apple’s move also has other options, namely wii-fi 80211.n. Although I believe Jobs will introduce the first Intel product covering this area better than the iMac in January, 80211.n will allow streaming of content to multiple devices from a “server”. This alone doesn’t address issues discussed in the article; but you will see another step in Apple’s direction soof with a Yonah processor IMHO.

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  3. Making Meaning – The Next Big Thing

    On a recent post titled Microsoft Media Center vs. Apple FrontRow, Om Malik said:

    “its not being the first, or being the
    one with the greatest number of features
    that translates into market share. Instead
    it is helping millions of consumers ease

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  4. One thing I’m not entirely clear on yet, is the Apple Remote Infrared, Bluetooth, or something else? If it’s any kind of RF, that’d be great, because it frees you from having your machine physically located in the same room as the TV. Linkage anyone?
    LG

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  5. The remote is infrared, which is a bit disappointing. It’s understandable if the iMac is in a dorm room or a bedroom, but it doesn’t seem to fit SJ’s stated philosophy that people want to watch on a large screen. Now if it was to appear in a Mac mini but we’ll probably have to wait for the Intel Mac mini in May-June. It could also appear in a new Airport Express, which would take commands via IR and convert it to WiFi for sending to the remote Mac. Maybe we’ll get that at MWSF.

    Om is right. Apple understands the MAINSTREAM consumer by starting simply and adding to it, thus creating a more trouble-free and thus enjoyable experience. Microsoft overwhelms the user with features/options, most of which only work sort-of-right after fiddling for a few hours. But for the technogeek early adopter, Apple’s method is limiting, and can seem arrogant, since they decide what it is that you can do.

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  6. >> First release a Media Center XP Lite. Free. Basically help turn most of the newer PCs into simple devices for aggregating photos, watching DVDs, streaming music and playing back downloadable videos.

    Forget a “lite” version, Windows Vista will have a full version of Media Center Edition with obvious improvements over MCE 2005.

    I briefly mentioned this here: http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/technology-and-science/interesting-windows-vista-features.asp

    I too have MCE 2005 at home. Many poeple have similar IR blaster issues and usually the culprit is the cable box not the blaster. Try manually setting the IR blaster to the Slow setting, that usually solves 90% of the issues.

    >>I am using all its features except the PVR

    Really? The PVR is the best part. I can’t live without my Windows PVR functionality. Good luck solved the IR blaster issue. Maybe time to upgrade to a HDTV set-top box anyway? ;) That might solve your issue if the slow setting doesn’t help.

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  7. I believe the remote is blue tooth (read that somewhere not 100% it’s accurate).

    Yeah IR blaster sucks, serial cables or fire wire are better but that invites it’s own set of problems. Clearly why their is agree to almost anything attitude to get cable card and direct write support for vista.

    That being said, what does that have to do with Apple? Their solution to that problem is not to have it, Apple will work flawlessly with your cable box by not working with it at all… When you have zero TV function it awfully easy to have a stream lined remote, duh. Heck I count a good 12 buttons at least that are not needed. I find Apples posturing on that to be pretty ridiculous, but I guess in a way that sort of pandering to folks who are likely to be confused and make assumptions about what front row actually can do is a type of brillance…
    Sort of like a how really good con man can short change you and leave you thinking you got to much from him.

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  8. Apple almost always takes easy approach and eases you into their stuff. The PC world just doesn’t get this. Kill them with tons of features and what usually happens. You find out is just nothing but hard to understand.

    So a lot of people that use PC’s seem to have the perception that not only does the Mac cost a lot, it hardly gives you anything.

    Except that people that use Macs realize how powerful Apples things are because they are so simple and easy to use. They do what you need to get done with them.

    I expect Apple to completely blow MS away on the digital front because MS as usual, will try to do too much as you have stated that they already have done. But of course, your wise suggestion of giving away a Lite version just ain’t in their DNA. And especially now that they have a product stuffed full of “features”.

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  9. [...] of Media Center development team. I think the trigger to all this was Steve Jobs comparing Apple’s remote to that of Microsoft. But I must agree to people that say both cannot be compareddifferent concept and both launched under different business strategy. Here is what Om Malik says: “Apple’s iPod success shows that its not being the first, or being the one with the greatestthe key. Front Row is exactly that: It is simple, and eases you into this whole convergence thing. ” I agree. I believe in the power of simplicity.   #     Tags: apple, Apple Matters, charlie owen, digital lifestyle, frontrow, gigaom, ipod, media center, simplicity, steve jobs. // Used for showing and hiding user information in the comment form function ShowUtils() { document.getElementById(“authorinfo”).style.display = “”; document.getElementById(“showinfo”).style.display = “none”; document.getElementById(“hideinfo”).style.display = “”; } function HideUtils() { document.getElementById(“authorinfo”).style.display = “none”; document.getElementById(“showinfo”).style.display = “”; document.getElementById(“hideinfo”).style.display = “none”; } [...]

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  10. I notice you didn’t mentionned linux-based media players, like Geexbox

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