C|Net Calls Media Center a Flop, C|Net is Wrong
I recently came across a post from C|Net regarding Microsoft's Windows Media Center, calling it one of the decades 25 biggest flops in technology. Here's the excerpt:
Windows Media Center Edition was the enhanced version of Windows XP that featured multimedia extras and a special user interface optimized for viewing on a TV screen. It never really took off. Solution: integrate it into Vista. Alas, that hasn't worked out so well either. Early reviews of Windows 7--which includes even tighter Media Center integration in most editions--are promising, but we still think Microsoft will have a hard time convincing users to use a PC in place of a cable box (despite some obvious benefits).
C|Net argues that it never took off, not really offering facts but more just guesses. Ask Microsoft and they will give you numbers of the millions of Media Center users throughout the world. Take a look at TheGreenButton forums and you'll see the thousands of posts weekly from enthusiasts. I would argue that while certain aspects of Media Center have flopped, Media Center in general was revolutionary and an extraordinary vision from a company as large as Microsoft.
| The original Media Center User Interface
Nowadays people take the 10-foot Media Center experience for granted, but those of us around the HTPC community in 2001 remember what a fantastic design Microsoft had developed. While there had been other 10' User Interfaces designed for media playback from your PC connected to a television, nothing was as solely 10' as Media Center (most required lots of configurations, settings, tweakings or *gasp* even using a mouse to browse the interface). With the introduction of the classic gray remote control (inexpensive, familiar, comfortable) it inspired a plethora of clones and competitors, all which helped the home theater PC develop into what it has become.
| Original MCE Remote Control
Initially the biggest hurdle it had was simply keeping up with the horse-power requirements. As more users adopted the notion of connecting their PC's to their TV's, new more demanding file formats would come out that would make it difficult for playback. Even today, new technologies such as HDMI 1.3 and 24p plague home theater PC builders. But that negativity is precisely the beauty with what Microsoft pulled off with Media Center--an open platform that can continue to evolve with the changes in technologies and times. Want a Blu-ray player? drop in a $100 drive and voila, who needs a PS3. Want to play video games or emulators? Drop in an Xbox-for-PC Windows Controller
Are there flops within Media Center, absolutely. The Media Center Extenders have been a disaster, "Softsled" has never been close to reality and the lack of a true competitor for the set-top box has been obvious. However, I think the longevity of it should prove that it's been anything but a flop. Many careers and companies have been formed directly or indirectly as a result of what Microsoft has done or continues to try to do with the Media Center platform.
It has been 8 years since the launch of Media Center and the overall outlook remains a mystery, and maybe that is what troubled the C|Net authors. I have great difficulty calling an application which has continued to evolve and play such an influential piece in a significant category of products a "flop." Only time will tell, and even 8 years later I would believe that it's still too early to judge...ask me again in 2017...I would venture to guess that Windows Media Center in some form will still be around and will have its own new problems/faults.