Thomas Hawk is ranting about Media Center in this scathing post. I typically don't respond to this sort of rant since it's fairly typical. I respect Thomas and know this isn't truly his heart speaking. Because of who Thomas is and the fact he *is* one of our 'biggest advocates' I'm going to take the time to give him respect and respond.
Thomas Hawk --> Why does Media Center suck? Well first and foremost they have no HDTV solution. Yes I sound like a broken record here and blame whoever you want for it, but bottom line is they just can't seem to get a deal done when they should have years ago. As households are rapidly adopting cable and satellite freebe offerings, the Media Center PC as a home entertainment device is losing luster.
To be clear, Thomas is bemoaning the fact we don't have native digital cable support in Media Center today, right now. He also doesn't mention we *do* support HDTV via ATSC over the air (OTA) broadcasts and went to great lengths to enable this feature. We haven't been sitting on our laurels twiddling our thumbs -- the ATSC work went a long way in preparing the platform for HD content delivered from a variety of sources in the future.
I'm also surprised Thomas completely ignored and never referenced the Nagravision and Microsoft Announce Agreement to Deliver Innovative Solutions for Digital Pay-TV to Windows Media Center PCs press release, which states...
"Nagravision and Microsoft will work together to enable the development of cost-effective products and services that use both parties’ technologies for the delivery of premium television content to personal computers running the Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system and its ecosystem of connected devices, including Xbox 360™ and Portable Media Centers."
...and goes on to say...
"Today at IBC2005, Microsoft and Nagravision are demonstrating the first results of their collaboration: a proof-of-concept device, implemented on Microsoft’s reference design by Digital Keystone Inc. This demo shows CANAL+ Group’s TV programs being securely broadcasted through Nagravision’s conditional access system before being securely “bridged” into Microsoft’s digital rights management (DRM) content protection technology to enable authorized access on Windows Media Center PCs and their ecosystem of connected devices. This Nagravision CA-to-DRM bridge, shown on Nagravision’s booth #1.420, supports current business models and enables quality-perfect, authorized access of premium TV content. It allows network operators to take advantage of the innovation around media consumption on Media Center PCs and their entire ecosystem of connected devices."
Thomas Hawk --> And don't quote me statistics about stronger sales of Media Center PCs than ever. These are just regular old PC sales masked as Media Center PCs. All you have to do is look at the number of units sold without a tuner to get the picture that MCE is being sold as a cheap add on to a regular PC and not as a gateway to the living room where the real long-term power lies.
Cheap shot, Thomas. Tunerless SKUs are actually a good thing on several fronts...
1) Consumer Choice. Who says having only a single option of all the bells and whistles is a good thing for every customer? Why does Honda make a Civic, N2000, Accord, Element, Pilot, CRV, Odyssey, Ridgeline and the entire Acura line? Contrary to popular belief, one size doesn't fit all. Consumers demand choices.
2) Affordability. Eliminating the tuner allows Media Center to be more affordable to the masses and allows for an entire ecosystem of add on products if a consumer decides later on they want to have a TV tuner in the box.
3) Competitive Advantage for Web Driven / Emerging Technologies. Tunerless SKUs of Media Center help advance the value proposition of IP delivered content (including his beloved FlickR).
4) A TV Tuner is just a part of the overall value proposition for Windows and Media Center. Take the TV tuner out of any run of the mill DVR and tell me what you have left?
Thomas Hawk --> Secondly, their music player, Windows Media Player sucks. It simply can't handle my large digital library and although "testing" was supposedly going on to index the WMP database years ago, no solution appears imminent.
Just because you don't see it Right Now doesn't mean we have ignored the feedback and aren't working on the solution. We are making significant investments to improve this experience for all users. Thomas, I guarantee you will be pleased with the results.
Thomas Hawk --> Third, Windows Explorer sucks. With a large digital library I simply cannot effectively copy files or back files up without having disc errors. Large batch copy jobs are super difficult as one little error aborts the whole job.
I routinely copy massive amounts of data around my home network and between discs with nary a problem. I regularly use Norton Ghost to manage incremental backups. Thomas, you might find help more forthcoming if you actually describe the specifics of the problems you encounter rather than ranting (send me a pointer if you have and let's see if we can figure things out). I've been meaning to try the Microsoft SyncToy on multiple file libraries on multiple Media Center PCs at work and in my home to see if it works. If it does, backup just got a whole lot easier for me.
Thomas Hawk --> And what is being done about these things. Probably something, but as far as I'm concerned NOTHING. Because NOTHING is being communicated. Microsoft lives in this secret veiled society where they won't share their development plans with even their biggest advocates.
Do I have an email from Thomas asking about these things? Nope.
Do I have a voicemail from Thomas asking about these issues? No.
Did Thomas ping me via IM about his concerns? Haven't seen one.
Did Thomas Skype me to discuss his feedback? Not yet.
Does Thomas see a pattern here? I hope so.
We disclose stuff about future versions of our products all the time -- but only do it at the proper time. This is not new and unique to Microsoft. Every company with an Intellectual Property play does as well.
Thomas Hawk --> And they've done a bunch of crap with Online Spotlight, but frankly I hate most of that stuff anyways. It has huge potential but the content frankly is not there. Why do I want to go to Cinema Now and download crappy non high def movies? I don't and thus I don't.
CinemaNow has high definition content available -- it may not be current blockbuster movies, but the fact Thomas doesn't know they have taken a step in the right direction is, well, enough said. Sit down and explore AOL Music On Demand, listen to National Public Radio or XM Radio via Media Center and your remote control (these also work on Media Center Extenders). Watch unedited news reel footage at Reuters (their Oddly Enough category is always worth a laugh or two). Surely there is *something* Thomas might like in Online Spotlight if he really took the time to explore. Is it still very early in the development of this paradigm? You betcha, but it isn't crap -- but the content available only gets better (and sooner than you think).
Thomas Hawk --> Throw in that Microsoft is caught between two masters, their Hollywood partners (for god only knows why these are the most hated people in the world) and empowering their end users, and things slow down even more. Message to Microsoft. Nothing would make Hollywood happier than if your entire digital media initiatives were ground to a sharp screeching halt.
Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. Content partners (studios, labels, producers, etc.) own the content you want, and will only make it legally available to you when they feel comfortable about the delivery vehicle. A platform which puts content owners and content consumers together in a mutually agreeable way is our goal. It's actually pretty simple-- no media, no Media Center. We absolutely must collaborate to bring the great content to you in a manner which is compelling, easy and on agreeable terms to all. Personally, I think we are doing a pretty good job of making both sides satisfied. This is a long term play, and we are here for the long haul.
Thomas asked me for an interview a while back, and I gladly accepted. I'm curious why he didn't leverage that earlier positive encounter to touch base again. Thomas, do yourself a favor -- pick up the phone and call me at 425-707-7818. I will always answer or return your call and do what I can to answer your questions. At least I promise you won't feel so crappy about our product or your advocacy of same after talking it over with a friend.