Here’s why…

  • Windows Media Center always shipped that way. Even in the Windows XP Media Center Edition days when it was shipped ‘out of band’ every year it was still as a feature of Windows. Changing to a different development model is harder than most people think and brings more risk than might be necessary. Staying on this path allowed the Windows Media Center team to focus on shipping the next great set of features.
  • The distribution model is a big win both for customers (it’s right there) and the Windows Media Center team (it’s right there). There is the hurdle of hardware (think tuners and remote controls) but shipping standalone raises the hurdle higher. Hurdles, generally speaking, are bad for adoption and user friendliness.
  • I think the community would agree there are awareness problems with Windows Media Center – those would be compounded (multiplied) in a standalone application. Once the consumer becomes aware they can immediately begin using.
  • The engineering task to build as a standalone product could very easily double (perhaps even triple). Windows Media Center relies on a lot of technology built by other teams throughout Microsoft and the Windows organization (three that easily come to mind: Windows Media Player, .NET Framework, Home Group). Generally speaking, you naturally get the ‘latest, greatest stuff’ when you ship simultaneously.
  • Windows Media Center isn’t really all that unique when you think about it – more of an alternative user interface on features already present in Windows. Why force consumers to download / acquire something else?
  • The business model works out this way. Standalone would automatically mean much fewer resources which in turns means much fewer features. Some would argue that might be a good thing – feel free to leave a comment with an opinion. I think the key takeaway here is the resources might force you to cut features beyond what most of the market would consider ‘must have’ and make the overall value proposition much less.

I’d be interested in your opinion: Do you think it was the correct decision to keep Windows Media Center as a feature of Windows rather than a standalone application?

Categories: Windows 7 | Windows Media Center | Comments [9] | # | Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:58:02 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 6:29:55 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hi Charlie,

This is a difficult one - for the reasons you mention, it was a good idea to keep Media Center a feature of Windows, however the biggest drawback of this is the long development cycle and the "cutting is shipping" approach. If a feature gets cut from a release, it's a long time before it gets into the platform (think MHEG5 for DVB-T for example). It also means that new technology gets introduced into Media Center very slowly where for other competing platforms their creators can add them to whatever schedule they like.

I think that Media Center would really benefit from a hybrid model where the core system was developed on a Windows release cycle, but with additional functionality being introduced out of band - like the Internet TV updates, but for functionality rather than content.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 6:35:51 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hey Charlie, glad to see you're stil up to your old tricks - insulting the only developers who are giving you free usability feedback on your brutally primitive SDK, armchair quarterbacking how the developer community should or should not want or try to develop against your platform, and excluding the only community members who still seem to give a damn from the ubiquitous but perhaps imaginary "community" you seem to believe are thrilled with the SDK.

Good on you... And when 7MC becomes yet another footnote among the niche ideas that ultimately died of starvation (how many apps are now available for iPhone? Or even for Silverlight platforms?), you can look back on all the community discussions you personally shut down (rather than fostered) and remember the part you played.

You want people to stop bitching that the tools they have are unusable? Get up out of your armchair SHOW them how you'd build the apps with the tools they've got. Otherwise, it sounds like a lot of whining from *both* sides of the conversation.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:43:15 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Regardless if MCE should be standalone or part of Windows, MS could still be providing updates/features/enhancements on a more frequent schedule. I basically look at MCE as a program install on Windows, therefore, why can't that program be updated sooner and more often.

I'm not a software developer, so I don't know the pro/cons of the different format, but I think it should be in whatever format that allows MCE to be integrated into it's own hardware application, such as Tivo or Apple TV (but with a TV tuner), or integrated into TV's and DVD players like the netflix example. Right now, MCE is just too difficult to setup for the average homeowner to deal with. The xbox is a step in the right direction, if folks could plug their cable directly into the back of that puppy, then you would see MCE use takeoff. I regularly have MCE going (through the xbox) when guests are over and every single person is amazed and always ask how they can do that.
Thursday, August 27, 2009 6:53:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
In response to your question: "Do you think it was the correct decision to keep Windows Media Center as a feature of Windows rather than a standalone application?"

I would answer: definitely not the correct decision. I understand the reasons MS did it and I agree it might have helped a tiny bit in making some more aware of MediaCenter, but I believe locking in the development cycle of a true HTPC product cripples that software due to the extremely long, drawn out product update cycles. To stay relevant in the Media Home space you have to keep up with the frequent changes in the environment. And tying any updates to the OS makes MS fall behind other alternatives far too fast. If MS is happy keeping Media Center as a "add-on" to Windows like Windows Media Player, then fine. But I do not agree that it is in the products (MC - not the OS) best interest and I think it was done to the detriment of the larger group of Media Center users.
Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:50:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Copying the url to Brents blog post on this topic -- a good read:
Friday, August 28, 2009 1:27:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Like Brent said and I'm sure min other will say the same I definitely think it was not the correct decision in long run.
Why not add this in Windows Live Essentials
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 8:38:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Absolutely not the right decision. I understand all the reasons you give, but MC needs to be on a much more rapid dev cycle than one major version every three years.

7MC looks good now, but in 2011?
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