Home > Media Center > Worm can opened: MCE Vista featureset (or lack thereof)

Worm can opened: MCE Vista featureset (or lack thereof)

Wow, I am amazed at the flurry of activity this morning after Matt Goyer made a few posts about MCE in Vista and the removal of two (in my opinion very minor) features.  So here’s what’s out there:

No More Caller ID and Messenger (Matt Goyer)
Thoughts on MCE beta feedback (Matt Goyer)
Our loss is your gain (Charlie Owen)

Based on the comments on those posts, other conversations, and the general aura I’m feeling today, these posts seem to have opened the floodgates for people to complain about the upcoming version of MCE that’s bundled with Vista.  I’ve commented over at Matt’s blog, but in general I’m not up in arms about it at all.  The two features being removed were gadgets that, with a good SDK, should not be part of the core anyways.  Media Center 2005 has a whole lot in it and being part of the Vista testing I can confirm that my family *loves* MCE 2005 whenever we revert back to that version.  We’re happy with the featureset it provides and the complaints I get from my wife tend to focus more on small tweaks rather than any major holes, and that’s what we’re seeing build after build from Vista.  In Vista they’ve fixed a couple of my top pet peeves including the need for a third-party video codec and third-party dvd burning plugin which are huge advancements for the general public.  I put them in the category of fixing up something that should’ve been fixed a long time ago, but still it’s a big move forward.

The other big advancement that I’m thrilled with is enhancement of the photo and video section of Media Center.  Everyone, including me, tends to focus on the PVR side of Media Center but I think that photo and video has the opportunity to overtake PVR in terms of number of users.  Everyone has a digital camera these days, and they all need a way to replace the old family slideshow with something equivalent in the digital age.  With Vista, users can easily organize their videos and photos by date, tags, and other information and easily show those on the big screen by date, tags, etc.  The number of people who receive MCE via Vista bundling globally will be huge.  A small number of those people will install aTV tuner, but I think that a huge number will use the MCE photo and video viewing capabilities.  I may be proven wrong, but hey that’s half the fun of stating an opinion.

The biggest disappointment for me is something that has never really been on the product roadmap anyways so I’m not too bummed about it, but that feature would have been network awareness.  I think it’s very realistic to think that there will be more than one Vista Premium PC on the network, and apparently so does the digital media group because they’ve made huge advancements in automatic media sharing at the Windows Media Player level.  It would be fantastic if I could have one machine in the office and another in the living room, they are automatically aware of each other’s content, tuners, and guide settings and can interoperate as part of a media center system.  It doesn’t seem like a huge leap, so maybe this is one of those “surprise” features that will make it in at the last minute.  Fingers and toes crossed.

Let’s end this one on a positive note…  Vista MCE really doesn’t have that many new features, but in my opinion it doesn’t really need many.  MCE 2005 does a good job hitting what the majority of the market needs, and Vista builds on that incrementally.  It’s clear through the testing process that, as Matt states, integrating MCE into the Vista codebase has been a huge challenge and those challenges continue to consume the majority of the development cycles.  If we can take what I see right now in Vista and make it stable then I think that we have a great platform to take to the market.  The shiny gadgets will come from the community who has proven they can do amazing things with a somewhat lackluster MCE2005 SDK and should be able to kick ass with the Vista MCE SDK.

Categories: Media Center
  1. Julio
    July 27, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    The main point of discussion in my opiniion is not the lack of those features. I agree, both of them should be developed as plug-ins.

    The discussion is about of lack of improvements since the 2005 release. The network awareness that you mention is one of them. So as support for TV formats outside the US, like DVB-S/C and ISDB. Support for more tunners and etc. Also keep in mind that there is REGRESSION ! If you do have a Media Center Extender today, it will not work.

    Vista is the future, it can’t have the featureset of the current product. Users will need to use this software until 2008/2009 propably, and for that, Vista MCE is far from compeling in terms of functionality.

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