Mark Finocchio, Aaron Stebner and myself sat down with Robert Scoble inside the Building 50 listening room for a chat about developing for Windows Media Center in Windows Vista back before the Super Bowl. I'll actually have to watch this myself to remember what I said. I'm pretty sure Robert asked about the Apple Front Row remote control at some point. I'm also sure I stated flatly we would ship Windows Vista before the holidays this year -- little naive me -- I hope you will forgive my misguided passion -- I won't soon make that mistake again.

Channel9: Your First Media Center / Vista Application (and a Look at Their Secret Room)

(I don't think the room is really all that secret, but if the intrique makes people watch the video, yay! Robert tries to pretend he isn't in marketing, but he really is, don't you think?)

Categories: Apple | Front Row | Media Center | Media Center Application Design | Windows Vista | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Saturday, April 8, 2006 6:53:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Matthew Fordahl of the Associated Press is out with another review of Apple Front Row (via CNN or AP). There are a couple of misleading or inaccurate statements with regards to Media Center:

"Unlike a Windows Media Center PC, however, Front Row doesn't dump you in a position where you have to leave the couch and pick up the keyboard. The machine also doesn't have the nasty habit of turning itself back on after it's been put into standby mode."

First, there are no Media Center features requiring the use of anything other than the remote control. A very few features (like search) might be somewhat easier with a keyboard, but all of those can be accomplished with the remote control (through triple tap -- think SMS text messaging on your cell phone). If you find you like to use Media Center with a keyboard (some people do actually prefer this mode) we have a wireless keyboard which works just great from the couch: The Remote Keyboard for Media Center. It's a full Qwerty keyboard, Media Center remote and integrated mouse all in one. It also lights up in the dark. You can totally remain a true couch potato with Media Center whether you choose a mouse or keyboard. :-)

Second, we have a feature whereby you can schedule TV recordings and put the PC in standby (to save electricity, lower ambient noise levels, save wear and tear, etc.). When the time comes to record the show the Media Center PC will resume from standby, record the TV show, and then return to standby mode. A properly setup and configured Media Center PC shouldn't resume from standby for no apparent reason -- if it does for any reason other than the DVR feature mentioned here or by pressing the power button the OEM should be contacted to resolve the issue.

I'm apparently not the only one who was somewhat dissatisfied with this review. Check out The Associated Press' Matthew Fordahl blows it: incorrectly states Apple iMac G5 lacks video output. I wonder if Matthew will likewise correct the misinformation about Media Center? At the very least I hope he will give us some sort of context for his commentary, since he never brought up these issues in his in depth review of Media Center this past January.

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Saturday, December 3, 2005 8:14:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I don't think Rob Pegoraro can make up his mind about whether he likes some of the Media Center features.

In Microsoft's Improved Media Center Still Falls Short (December 2004) he writes...

'The biggest change in this 2005 release is an expanded set of photo-editing tools, designed for use from across the room with the remote control. You can now fix red-eye effects, adjust a picture's contrast and even crop it, then burn a photo album to CDs or DVDs (although the disc-burning screen invites confusion by presenting "audio CD" as the default choice). These automated, one-button shortcuts worked surprisingly well. But how often will you want to edit a picture from that far away?'

This past Sunday in Apple's Front Row Comes Closer to Couch-Driven Computing he writes...

'Where Media Center comes with a long list of features and options, Front Row does only four things: You can play music, you can look at your photos, cue up a DVD or watch video files stored on your hard drive or online. It doesn't lump in irrelevant commands (for example, Media Center's bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools), it has no preferences screen for you to mull over, and its remote control consists of just six buttons.'

How can you go from 'These automated, one-button shortcuts worked surprisingly well' to 'bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools'...?

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Tuesday, November 8, 2005 6:45:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I'm getting a good many hits from today referencing the Apple Front Row stuff I posted. Many folks have been been pointing me to translation sites -- I've not found those to be much help since they do a literal word-for-word tranlation. For example...

'Depuis sa présentation, FrontRow suscite beaucoup d’interrogations. À sa façon, Apple se place sur le marché des media-center. Là où la société ne fait pas comme les autres, c’est qu’au lieu d’intégrer ce logiciel qui irait si bien au Mac mini, elle le propose avec l’iMac. Steve Jobs a beau avoir fait un pas en arrière, il reste persuadé que le centre du hub numérique doit être l’ordinateur.'

...becomes this after automatic translation...

'Since its presentation, FrontRow causes many interrogations. At its way, APPLE is placed on the market of the media-center. Where the company does not make like the others, it is that instead of integrating this software which would go so well to mini Mac, it proposes it with the iMac. Steve Jobs took a step in vain behind, it remains persuaded that the center of the numerical hub must be the computer.'

Somehow, I don't think the original message is coming through here. Although I admit some of the comments are really, really funny when run through auto translation...

'If it is true that the media center introduces with the iMac G5 is a logical evolution of the numerical hub to the APPLE sauce, its ease of use is a heritage of the iPod.'

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [4] | # | Posted on Monday, October 31, 2005 6:21:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I left comments over on his blog this time rather than summarizing here -- his latest is a good read...

FrontRow, One More Time

Everyone seems quite taken with the new video service in iTunes (and viewable in Front Row).  Hmmmmm -- how do we let people know about the great content available via Online Spotlight...?

I'm usually reticent to say things like this, but here goes...

I *think* I will be able to share some special news on Thursday / Friday which will contrast the approaches taken by Apple and Microsoft nicely. No promises, but stay tuned.

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Online Spotlight | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:11:04 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Oh, how I wish I spoke other languages outside of English (and C#). I just know some of the comments over at the german MacTechNews are good.  Even the flames look interesting, at least in German.

Categories: Front Row | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2005 6:03:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Om Malik quotes me on his blog with Microsoft Media Center Vs Apple FrontRow.

He laments his problems with the digital video recorder (DVR) features of Media Center, which to date he hasn't gotten to play nice with his Comcast set top box.* He believes we 'overreached' by including the DVR feature in Media Center and makes the following suggestion:

'So what should Microsoft do? Two things. First release a Media Center XP Lite. Free. Basically help turn most of the newer PCs into simple devices for aggregating photos, watching DVDs, streaming music and playing back downloadable videos.'

Om states he 'would gladly pay $49.95' for a standalone version of Apple Front Row according to his I Want My FrontRow-on-TV post. I wonder why he would advise us to give away software which has a good bit more consumer value? Has he called for Apple to drop the price of the iPod by some significant amount because someone else shipped a competing MP3 player? Hopefully Om will elaborate further, because right now this makes zero sense from a business perspective.


I hope Om knows he can get a Media Center PC today without a TV tuner and thus fulfill his desire for a 'lite' version of Media Center on par with the Apple Front Row features (i.e. Photos, DVD, Music, Videos) for *considerably* less than a comparably equipped iMac with Front Row.

* My family uses a dual tuner Media Center with two Comcast set top boxes via IR blasting on a regular basis. While I have seen IR blasting issues (wrong channel recorded) they have been extremely rare in my experience.

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [2] | # | Posted on Monday, October 24, 2005 6:11:56 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I've been following the Apple’s Media Center PC End Around post over at  It's sort of like watching a very loooonnnnng tennis volley. 'Apple copied Microsoft.'  'No, Microsoft copied Apple.' nauseum.

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: 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.

Categories: Front Row | Comments [17] | # | Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2005 12:30:56 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Found this over at

I'll have more to say later about this comparison. BTW, I'm flying down to Silicon Valley today -- anyone want at Apple want to have me over late this evening to chat...?

Categories: Media Center | Front Row | Comments [5] | # | Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2005 5:20:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

I've heard rumors of this for over four years now:

Frankly, I'm underwhelmed -- I really expected Apple to have much more to brag about, especially given their momentum with iPod over the last couple of years.  Based on everything I'm seeing, Front Row doesn't even have feature parity with the first version of Media Center released back in October 2002. No hint of a developer platform either -- that's a shame -- I was really looking forward to dusting off my Mac coding skills again.

But don't get me wrong -- I do think this is a good thing.  The halls here in Building 50 are buzzing with excitement (and yes, it's positive excitement -- we love this stuff).  It's classic Microsoft vs. Apple, and we haven't really had that for a lonnnnnng time, and some of us miss that competition.

So, welcome back Apple, it's good to see you again!

What do you think -- was this a good move for Apple?

Categories: Front Row | Media Center | Comments [8] | # | Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:06:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
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