We’ve received several inquiries about Windows 8. When will it be released? Should I wait to buy a new computer? What kind of features will it have? They are all great questions. The reality is that Microsoft has kept very tight lipped about all things Windows 8, but nevertheless as time goes by and we draw closer to the inevitable Windows 8 release, we’ll try to update you on news or topics of note.
Media Center is the latest feature to have information released. Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows division, put some Media Center comments on the record recently via his blog regarding its Windows 8 inclusion.
Media Center News
Windows Media Center has been an often obscure part of Windows for many users. It looks different than the rest of Windows and setup can be a confounding process for the average user. Nevertheless, it is a decent part of the Windows OS when setup. Having said that, the numbers representing its usage are far below what we would expect from an integrated Windows feature. Usage data indicates “..Windows Media Center was launched by 6% of Windows 7 users globally..” for the month of July. Six percent is not a lot and only a quarter of those used Media Center for more than 10 minutes. While not very impressive, the numbers do indicate that Media Center is being used and the focus is directed more towards TV viewing as opposed to CD/DVD usage.
So with data like that does Microsoft intend to include Media Center in Windows 8 or are we looking at a remnant of past Windows releases? According to Sinofsky, “I want to reassure customers that Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8. No doubt about it.” That is a definitive statement which should put questions to rest about including Media Center in Windows 8.
Sinofsky went on to say that pre-release builds will not have Media Center included, but that’s not entirely surprising and certainly not the only feature which will be omitted from the early builds.
You can read other Windows 8 related articles on our Windows 8 News page.
Are you looking forward to Windows 8? Do you approve or disapprove of the Media Center inclusion? Let us know in the comments!
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Love it or hate it, Media Center has the largest install/user base, largest collection of 3rd party integration and without a doubt it has been around longer than anything in the industry. Hopefully this will be the version that catchs on and ends up with mass adoption.
Based on the BUILD conference so far, it looks like Windows 8 could be just what Microsoft ordered and not just for Media Center. We shall see. Appreciate the comments!
I have a rant about this….(sorry for the length)
I believe MS is totally missing the boat with Media Center. IMO it is one of the few items in recent MS history they they absolutely nailed. It is smooth, good looking and the interface is drop dead simple. In my house it has passed with flying colors the oh-so-important WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). If my wife can figure out how to use it, and loves it by the way, than it must be easy. I run my entire house off a MC PC with a 4-tuner TV card from Ceton, I rip all our movies to the movie library, and put all our home videos in there, plus music and pictures, Netflix integration…the works. Every person I show it off to says “I’d pay money for this”. Guess what? If you have Win7 you already have it!
But, MS doesn’t promote the fact that it is even in Windows much less describe what it’s meant to be used for. Most people…not “power users”, “geeks”, “techies”, etc, will not go beyond what is placed right in front of them with a clear and concise explanation of what it’s for. They make vague references to it in a couple of their TV commercials (the guy watching TV outside his dorm room, another guy accessing his media from Germany, etc…) but they mention nothing about how to actually setup and use those features. To me, they serve only to reinforce the notion that computers are too complicated and only an expert can set these things up.
These are a few hurdles normal users need to overcome in order to realize what they have in MC:
1. Normal users have no idea the difference between Media Center and Media player. As silly as it sounds it’s true. MS has a history of naming things in a confusing way or putting two similar functioning items on your machine and leaving it up to the simple user to figure out. Another example, why place an icon for MSN Explorer along with Internet Explorer? Stop that! You’re confusing people.
2. Windows MCE is meant to be displayed on a TV plain and simple. That’s why it doesn’t look like the rest of Windows. As simple a concept as this may seem, if a user doesn’t realize this when they start it they get blown away…frozen solid. They can’t close it fast enough in order to get back to the familiar Windows desktop.
3. This goes right along with #2. A simple user will read that as “I have to hook my computer to my TV? How on earth would I do that? Too techie. I won’t even try and I’ll never think of it again.” If using it to watch TV, “why would I do that instead of using my cable box?”. Although, this is a valid point if you watch a lot of HD TV. Then you do need to get a bit techie in finding the exact hardware you need to get the Digital Tier HD channels from your cable co. But, the main reasons are: coolness (MCE blows away every channel lineup menu offered by cable) and no set-top box rental fees! Every month you pay $5-$10 for each cable box in your house.
4. This takes right off from #3. People can usually figure out how to plug in dvd players, cable box and such to their TVs. But a computer? Too techie (perceived). Enter the Xbox as the extender! Incredibly easy to do which is very unlike some other MS tasks but, again, too techie. A user, “I’m streaming from my PC to my XBox? Whoa, I don’t know how to do that!” Case close…never attempted. Apple got this right in the moderate success of Apple TV. Just plug it in the TV like any other device and you’re off and running.
MS has a killer app in it’s MC and it’s looking like they’re letting it flounder. I’m no MS-fan boy by any means but I love their Media Center and don’t want to see it go away!
@Cobra: Wow, tell us how you really feel!
Kidding aside, you make some valid points. Briefly, I’d agree totally with your point #1 and would add that you’ve touched on a larger issue in that MS seems to rely on word of mouth for their best features while promoting the questionable ones.
The good news is that Media Center will still be around in Win8 so there is the possibility of making more users aware. Thanks for commenting!
It’s not merely a matter of what percent of users actively use Media Center. It makes sense to continue support, or at the very least include it with existing features supported. Based on announcements, the latter part is at least assured.
If you ask any business whether they’d be wiling to give up 3 to 6% of their user base, many would respond that it would make the difference between financial viability and bankruptcy. Microsoft is in no danger of being in that position, but from a business standpoint, having an operating system that a percentage of the customer base would actively avoid is problematic.
Microsoft outdid the competition such as software bundled with tuner cards, etc. For such users who have HTPCs, upgrading to an OS without MC would make the computer useless. Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that I would have upgraded a dozen computers in my home to Windows 7 had earlier versions of the OS been compatible.
Windows Media Center has its strong proponents, but to be fair, Microsoft’s implementation was wishy washy at best. The ambiguity of having Windows Media Player as an independent Windows component, and also what’s needed to deploy features such as Play To or certain types of media streaming leaves a level of confusion. Why have two divergent solutions with active yet disparate improvements in both when releasing a new OS?
Media Center is in many ways tailored to media use in ways that arguably justify its appearance, albeit foreign to the rest of Windows. Yet it leaves out many capabilities that Windows users have taken for granted. Why can’t I do something so simple as dragging a recorded TV program to the trash can or unerasing it later? An new interface that lacks drag and drop and simple reconfiguration of the user interface seems like a short sighted decision.
Basic ability to reconfigure or make use of data is like jumping through hoops. Getting at the basic database of scheduled recordings, making use of the history, or changing attributes can’t be done in the same way as with typical Windows components. Even writing programs using class libraries can lead to brick walls for things that should be relatively minor. For example, I could easily write a program that gets a list of recorded TV programs, and get the channel numbers for them. But getting the subchannels was left off the list and even finding a hack for it proved impossible.
Instead of diverging from Windows, there should have been a goal of unifying Media center. I actually make good use of it despite any complaints, and Media Player is a far cry from what I need. But if the latter component were enhanced to support recorded TV, integrated libraries supported by Media Center, and Media Center were evolved into a skin (looking much like the current Media Center with room for improvement) with Media Player behind the scenes, then third party developers could easily obviate the need for the MS component.
Keeping it alive would still be a huge plus, but if a new Windows came out that picked up where the old one left off in terms of supported processes, and scheduled recordings and media sharing remained intact, it would make the decision to upgrade to a new Windows far less disturbing.
Hi Haggy, thanks for commenting!
Two points from your comments stand out to me.
1. “..Microsoft’s implementation was wishy washy at best.”
Implementation is key and for MC I think integration with the main OS was part of the implementation error on MS’ part.
2. “..there should have been a goal of unifying Media center.”
Ultimately, I think that falls under the category of MS not understanding how users interact with their systems. However, I also believe that MS is moving in the right direction based on what we know so far about Win8. It would seem more then simple for MC to flourish in a future environment that is a reflection instead of a separation from the main OS.
I agree 100% with Cobra and think MS is seriously missing the boat with MC.
I’ve used it for years on a dedicated machine that I view all my TV through. In fact that machine only switches back to “normal” windows when I need to do a quick bit of admin on it (which is very infrequently).
As well as the points already raised by others on promoting it more I think there is a huge argument for MS to fork the development of MC into a stand-alone product – perhaps even one that can be embeded. Imagine if they partnered with a TV or even better, a set top box manufacturer to make MC the default system used. This is essentially what Apple did with Apple TV – a small STB device that just plugs into the TV.
Consumers still think of computers as “sit forward” devices and TV as a “sit back” device so the idea of using a computer connected to their TV just doesn’t gel. But if they stop calling it a computer and instead put MC on some kind of small STB I’m sure it would take off.
Thanks for commenting Nick!
Moving forward it would seem Xbox is the MS offering for media streaming, a la set top box, so I’m not sure that MC could get pushed in that direction any time soon.
You’re definitely right about sit forward/sit back. There’s still a piece of ‘magic’ missing to change the game, not just for MS but for others as well.
In response to Nick P’s comment about forking MC into a standalone embeded product, MS does offer Windows 7 embeded which can be scaled down and offers essentially this… my understanding is it boots straight to MC and doesn’t have the standard explorer.
hm.. i did not agree with some of the stuff, nevertheless i do appreciated the article overall… this post was actually proposed to me by a good friend at myspace and she was right. really good read! Regards!
Thanks for the comments!