You may have noticed that I regularly tout Media Center as one of my favorite features of Windows Vista. I have even been using/loving it as my sole DVR for about three months now. It should come as no surprise then that I have been following the next iteration codenamed Fiji quite closely. While the software sounds good for the most part, I can’t understand why it seems that Microsoft is trying to make sure Vista Media Center (VMC) never takes off.
Overall I find the concept, and to a large extent the execution, of VMC to be awesome. Here are some the strengths of VMC:
- No DVR fees to the cable company (or Tivo)
- Comes built into Vista
- Easily share the DVR through extenders (of which there is already a huge base of Xbox 360s)
- Top notch user interface (most of the time)
- Portable recordings
I especially like that the recordings are just files that I can play on my laptop or stream over the Internet (via Orb) when I travel. You can also easily sync and automatically transcode recordings to WMP-compatible media players, Zunes, and even Windows Mobile devices. I do wish they’d develop/release a softsled (software-based extender) though.
Vista Media Center TV Pack
Microsoft are set to announce the “Vista Media Center TV Pack” formerly codenamed Fiji at next month’s CEDIA Expo. It will bring welcomed features such as proper native QAM support and heterogeneous tuner support; both of which I’ve been waiting for. While many were expecting features such as support for H.264 and DirecTV, and the ability to have widescreen thumbnails, no such features are showing up in tester’s hands. Honestly, overall it is a complete disappointment. Not just because of the software, it is the delivery too.
It gets ugly when you start to look at how you can get some TV Pack goodness for yourself. First problem, you can’t upgrade to it. Apparently a fresh install is required; just what I want to do with a system that is setup how I like it. Second, it is only available through OEMs! But wait it gets worse. Third, all the OEMs have said they are only planning on supplying the TV Pack with new computers.
Let me get this straight, so because I bought and installed Vista myself, a very common scenario for most current media center users, I don’t get access to a key update to an included component of the OS? And Even if I had bought my HTPC through an OEM, they aren’t going to support the product further? Who is making these decisions and how do they sound right to them? As if I didn’t feel like my copy of Vista Ultimate wasn’t completely lacking anything Ultimate about it already.
It must be awful to be one of the developers working on Media Center at Microsoft. So much work into a great product only to have it destroyed in the marketplace due to bad business decisions. The many VMC users out there are pretty loyal but we will only take so much. It is like we are continually waiting for the next installment to really make it all right (satellite support, good digital cable support, broad codec support, softsled, built-in place shifting, etc). Microsoft is lucky my DVR options are so bad to begin with, but that won’t last forever.