Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Generation of Media Center Adopters left out in the rain

I write about the Media Center experience quite a bit on this blog, and I do for the most part appreciate the elegance of the overall experience. The box that MS paints around what you can and cannot do does make me pine for alternatives from time to time but, for the most part I am satisfied with what I get. Being the owner of several first Generation Media Center accessories, the discontinuation of the new generation pains me not for their overall quality or covetablility[sic], but for the disconnect between the Microsoft death by a thousand OEM's and Apple's "own everything" approach to digital media devices. The Media Center Extender is one area where Microsoft wants others to pickup the ball and run with, but simultaneously competes (original xbox for Generation 1 and xbox360 for the current). Given that the device that they makes is multipurpose (games and media) it is the logical winner in the race for dollars and space in the home, but Microsoft seems unable to take the mantle as sole producers of extenders. I am all for the OEM opportunity, but it feels like the partners get drug along so that the products in question are really repackaged Microsoft reference designs.

The partners do not get any positive out of these products that I can tell, and given the closed loop nature of these things it seems unlikely that Microsoft will change their stance anytime soon and release the Software Sled and let us figure out the integration bits. As long as the extenders are based on Windows CE, the experience will be lacking and the rise of the Intel Atom should be enough to convince them that an device like the Apple TV with a stripped down OS customized to the task, offers some very interesting price performance opportunities. I think that the computer as appliance is starting to take root in Microsoft, just look at the Windows Home Server. This is the type of product that HP can get their arms around, design software that extends it, and offers them and the customer competitive advantage. I hope that this round of failure opens Microsoft's eyes. Release the Soft Sled, we know it either has been conceptualized or is in use internally and recognize the opportunity for the Microsoft Media Center Integrated Consumer Experience.

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