I've been following the Apple’s Media Center PC End Around post over at http://www.applematters.com. It's sort of like watching a very loooonnnnng tennis volley. 'Apple copied Microsoft.' 'No, Microsoft copied Apple.'
Note: I've used and owned Apple products over the years, starting with the original Mac way back when (actually even before with an Apple IIe back in elementary school -- Beagle Bros, peek and poke were my middle name). I also managed a graphics art house with Macs, Windows PCs and SparcStations all living happily together on the same network. I'm not one of these 'Macs suck' kind of people. To the contrary, I believe Apple makes good products, even if I happen to work at Microsoft.
Here are a couple of thoughts I've been noodling over the last couple of weeks...
1) It was a no-brainer for Apple to port it's iPod application over to Mac operating system and hook it up to a remote control. The interface has been tried and tested on millions of iPods. It's low hanging fruit -- they probably didn't have to invest a ton of money to get the feature in their OS. Microsoft kinda / sorta did the same thing, only in reverse order with the Media Center first, Portable Media Center second.
2) Porting the iPod application over to the OS is further evidence of the iPod halo effect Apple has been hoping for whereby strong sales of iPods translate into equally strong sales of Macs. It remains to be seen if there is actually a halo effect. I don't think so. The price inequities between a Windows PC and Mac are far greater than iPod vs. any other portable player, and I'm willing to bet there are more iPods connected to Windows PCs than iPods connected to Macs.
Update: I have added a chart which is the basis for my *opinion* there is no halo effect: http://www.retrosight.com/mediacenter/Apple_iPod_and_Mac_Sales.png. Read the comments for context.
3) 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. All things being equal, Joe Consumer will choose the remote with 6 buttons instead of 40.