Why Softsled shall always remain a myth
I recently got in somewhat of a debate with a fellow MCE enthusiast over Softsled. I've held firm that I don't believe Microsoft will ever do softsled, even though it's something I would love and use. I thought I'd take the time to combine my position with my thinking (complete assumptions) as to why it'll never happen. I'm sure some of this will upset enthusiasts, but I'm hoping some will read this and think it makes sense.
First, a history lesson. Softsled is a rumored product from Microsoft (for several YEARS now) which will supposedly allow a user to have the exact experience you get with Extenders, but from a PC in your house. So essentially, it's an Extender you can build yourself. It has never been confirmed by Microsoft to even have been worked on.
- Competition with Extenders! Softsled would directly compete with Extenders, which Microsoft has invested a lot of time & money into redeveloping its brand & reputation there
- There's no money in it! How would they sell it, as an addon software package? And then what, all the work it would take, and what would make users happy? $50 would make sense but still I'm sure would upset a large majority of users.
- The demand simply isn't there outside the enthusiast community. Sure, every geek would love it since we all have 20 computers & would rather use those in multiple rooms instead of forking out $300 on Extenders, but the average person doesn't care as they probably only have 1 or 2 systems.
- Not enough resources. I know some of you might scoff at this one since Microsoft is "oh so big" a company, but think about it. Look at all the more important features users are STILL waiting for: DirecTV, better CableCard, Picture-in-Picture, etc...etc. Softsled would be an enormous task & would certainly bump more important things out.
- Support Issues! Just think about the can of worms this would open. I've been around the MCE community since it was an OEM-only product, and there are a MILLION of support inquiries when the entire OS was dedicated to MCE...imagine now an addon that would need to support who knows what system setup & network environment, and there goes some more profits.
- Copy protection dangers - Microsoft has spent an enormous amount of time locking down the copy protection schemes within Vista to comply with Cablelab's ridiculous requirements, and if they now opened the ability to stream to another complete PC, that could cause some discomfort in that relationship.
- Minus CableCard TV & the Skin, It's really already a possibility, kinda. Technically speaking, there's nothing preventing people from using Media Center PC's throughout the house & having them all share the same content. There are hacks which allow you to record to a network storage, as well as monitor various network locations for TV. The main limitation here is Cablecard protected content, which I'll get to later. But besides CableCards, essentially you can already have a Softsled-experience which should be sufficient. You can build a cheap, inexpensive system with Vista Home Premium, and a tiny hard drive, and just link all the media files to the central MCE. I know it's not as good as an Extender experience, but...it's not exactly Nothing.