Saturday, September 12, 2009

CEDIA and Media Center Wrapup

Well CEDIA has come and gone and as everyone expected there were some MediaCenter announcements from the show.  Here’s my scorecard:

CableCard made a tremendous jump up on the desirable scale – Opening up CableCard tuner to be sold by themselves and not pre-installed on a PC is the biggest one.  Yes, it was able to do this with a hack but this makes it accessible to all and removes any fear of the hack being plugged.  Secondly and just as important was the reduced DRM usage.  No longer will all channels get DRM’d – just the ones that are marked as “protected” by the Cable Company.  Finally we heard that Ceton will have that multi-tuner CableCard ready for us early next year and even Hauppauge will have their own CableCard tuner.

All of these things combined mean CableCard on MediaCenter isn’t as bad as we thought.  Yes there is still DRM, yes we are still dependant on the often fumbling cable companies to mark the channels copy protected or not.  But you can’t deny that this is a huge move forward.  It really puts CableCard and MediaCenter to where it should have been when it was first released.

Where Are the Extenders?

It wasn’t all good for Media Center though.  I still wonder where are the extenders?  Yes I know those new XBox360’s are a good value and yes they are a little quieter even.  Shoot I might even be okay with one XBox360 as an extender in my house, but I definitely do not want one by every TV in my home.  And I don’t want to use a HTPC (computer) at each TV either because of the extra setup/admin, noise and electricity usage.  Because Microsoft has ignored the cries for a true Media Server/Client setup and instead force us to have a PC (with their own tuners) at every TV (or an XBox360) they have made it very difficult for a multiple TV home – at least mine.

SageTV Hd200 Extender/Player

How difficult would it be for Microsoft to release a Xtender (the X is a play on Xbox of course), their own branded extender that works with Media Center.  This would keep them from having to rely on 3rd party CE companies and put them in control of the Media Center platform.  Lets be honest here – if SageTV can build a proper HD Extender surely Microsoft could do the same.

Dish Tuner?

Another thing we saw from CEDIA was that elusive satellite tuner – this one from DishTV still exists and works with MediaCenter.  The only problem is it isn’t available to purchase and so far there are no plans for it to be put on the market.  If this thing ever becomes available it will be a huge win for Media Center.  But until that day comes I’ll keep my opinion of it – it’s only vaporware.

Media Center Looks Better Today than they did Last Week

CEDIA showed us Media Center will live on and probably prosper.  I’m seeing some users on the various forums are taking a second look at Media Center now which is definitely a change compared to the past many months when many Media Center users were looking elsewhere.  I’m looking at Snapstream and SageTV to see what move they make now.  The change in CableCard certainly doesn’t change what hoops and costs they would have to do to make their programs CableCard ready, but those changes certainly mean there would be more users interested in it – and that should make the cost/benefit of doing CableCard much more interesting for the two companies.