Sunday, April 29, 2007

Amazon Unboxed and Media Center

I used Amazon Unboxed to watch Turistas (review here) last night.

It was pretty seamless. It installs a little player, and that player can view the movie at fullscreen.

The movie itself was a bit lower bitrate than DVD (came out to around 2GB, IIRC), so the fidelity doesn't compared to Xbox Live Marketplace's HD videos, the picture still looked really good on my PC. I have a 20" Dell monitor that I run at 1600x1050. I'm going to guess they use MP4 because Mpeg-2 at that bitrate probably wouldn't have looked as good as it did at that resolution.

But I was left wondering, why doesn't this work with Windows Media Center? It would have been nice to download it on the PC and then watch on the Xbox via Media Center Extender. Why aren't vendors like Amazon incorporating their product into Windows Media when that platform can be extended, making a better experience for the customer?

It seems like Media Center is a mess right now, even at a time where Vista has improved the product. And it's shipping with most Vista machines via Home Premium or Ultimate editions to boot, so the software is "free" (kinda, but I doubt you'd want to run Vista Basic). Yet Media Center might be on the ropes more than ever before thanks to the Apple TV device. What good is having Media Center on Vista when:
  • Actual Media Center PCs generally cost over $1000.
  • HDTV Media Center PCs cost $4000-$7000.
  • Devices like the ATI OCUR, which allow Cable Card to be used as an add-in to an existing PC, won't be able to use MC due to Microsoft's draconian position on HD content protection under Vista.
  • Did I mention Vista's draconian DRM stance?

Microsoft is basically screwing the pooch on this one. Media Center is actually pretty good, all I really want it to do is replace my stupid Comcast DVR in an affordable way. I've got the PCs to do it, I just need an HD cable card. Isn't this supposed to be the "commodity PC way" that Microsoft has always talked about? If so, why is Microsoft forcing me to buy a whole new PC that costs thousands?

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