The HTPC Software Start Page

Jan 06 2009

There has been lots of talk in the Sage world about UI's and what folks like to see in order to gain mass adoption. While not specifically related to the entire UI, my thoughts driffted to what I would like to see for the intitial screen when I sit down to use my HTPC.

The menu structure has long since been the start screen of choice for all HTPC programs. This somewhat makes sense as it should offer the fewest amount of clicks between the start screen and your desired HTPC function. RecordedTV->show-->Play or Music->Artist->Album->Play All. Something along those lines :). This approach while comforating like an old shoe really does not do much to ease access to the media you want to interact with.

What's New?

In my case, I assume this to be true in most house holds including mine, I want to interact with shows I record the most, shows I recorded recently, videos and music I added recently. I am not sure of the exact ratio but I would guess that I use my HTPC to interact with newly added media 80 percent of the time as compared to the stale rip of Vertical Limit that I watch every few years.

So let's make that feature #1 on our start page and make the newly added media available. This could be a "New Media Menu" item with sub-menus for different types of added media. With all the fancy networking gizmos W7 is to offer, you should have a solid catalog of what media has been added to your network. Just don't dig to deep into the dusty confines of others personal folders. You might not want to find "everything". This would tie into new media from various marketplaces that exist and in general make it easier to discover new content.



Recommendations

I assume since we are adding, recording and editing media, we like to see what is out there in terms of new media. Both Apple and Microsoft have fairly good recommendation engines in their respective marketplace software. It would not be a stretch to include this for all types of media. 

This is feature #2. Right beside the New Media button, lets put a Recommendation menu item with recommendation sub items based on different types of media. This could included recommended shows to watch & record, recommended audio to buy from a marketplace or listen to a Internet radio station, recommended movies to buy or watch. The important aspect in this feature is to have the API open so all plugins can take advantage of this feature. My movies, Netflix or even a Hulu plugin should be able to send the proper metadata to the software to organize what is new based on your viewing habits or some predefined genre preferences.


The Social

The social is coming, at that is what everyone tells me. I am generally writing to busy writing articles to notice if people are social or not. What would be interesting is to see what my friends are watching. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see what the community has a whole is watching. Various Top 10 lists and other social aspects would be a pretty good idea. Alright, let's make menu item #3, The Social. Sub menus could include friends, community and expert recommendations & critics.

This strategy heavily relies on having the proper data from your added media and having thirdy party plugins provide proper data to the HTPC software. Since this is no longer a controlled environment it maybe difficult to implement with third parties.

Ultimately, I would like to see a move away from the start page and move towards interacting with the media AND making it easier to discover soemthing a little different. It is getting a little hectic to browse Hulu, the EPG, Netflix, Movie Collectorz to find stuff to entertain :).

 

What do you guys think? Stick with the menu system? My vote is for this type of start page just because most remotes in use offer one click access as opposed to navigating a menu system. If you need to navigate the menu system, the start button is just a click away.
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