Vista Media Center Improvements

Mar 16 2008

Here are a few of my thoughts on improving Vista Media Center.

1. Some sort of digital distribution that ties nicely into Media Center. After using a 3rd Party Netflix plugin, it is very clear to me, and no doubt to anyone who has used that same plugin, that digital distribution is here and damn great. I guess the obvious place to start is integration with the Xbox Live Marketplace. I do think that Netflix has the right formula here and that $4 digital rentals are not the future.

On the TV side? There are all sorts of folks coming out with 2' UI so people can watch TV on their computer. I wonder why they aren't clamouring to get their shows on Media Center. I hope Microsoft makes some key partnerships in this area.

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2. Native Blu-ray support. Contradicting myself? No not really, while digital distribution is great. 50 gigabyte downloads will NOT be here for a while. It is nice to have a portable physical copy I can play in another machine. Plus, there are some people who still want physical copies.

3. The ability to customize the EPG. I suppose my main gripe is not being able to group certain channels together. Another change I would like to see is adjusting the number of columns and rows as well.

Along the same line is the search capability. It really isn't intuitive at all. It takes several clicks to find the search function from the EPG. I think Microsoft could do some work on advancing the whole PVR concept by adding rating systems, suggestions etc. Welcome to the social?! After all, surfing is very passe.

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4. Customization of the start menu. This could open up a can of worms but there needs to be some level of customization that does not include registry hacks. While the Sport Strip is nice, some people just are not sports fanatics and would like it removed. Even the ability to be able to assign plugins to various strips. We all don't want our plugins in the Other Programs area.

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5. I really do not have any suggestiosn for the music part. You can rate, and edit tags. One little nitpick is to be able to integrate which store you buy music from. I wouldn't mind have Zune store integration or the Amazon MP3 store. :). Oh and there appears to be no way to sort by highest rated songs. 

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6. The video library is a bit odd. They have stripped out all that is good about the music library and left the scraps for the video library. I am not sure I understand the reasoning behind this. If you have a video 5 folders deep, you are required to drill down to eventually find the video.

6.5 DVD Streaming. There is no DVD streaming for extenders. This is not a good thing.

7. Integration of Microsoft's Other Services. Nothing new here, I am sure we have all heard it before but here are they are again.

  • Xbox smex box. Let us see some digital distribution lovin on the MCE
  • Zune integration. Why not have a 10' UI to purchase media from the Zune store? Wireless sync of all TV shows and purchased media? I think so.
  • Welcome to the social? How about a media community? How about top 10 lists of popular recordings? Community ratings?
  • Live messenger? Where art thou?

8. Speed up development time.We know software development takes time and we are not asking Microsoft to rush products out the door but their needs to be some improvement in this area. I wonder if they don't feel the pressure from SageTV? :)

Are these problems worth it? Absolutely! There is no perfect media center software out there however the experience and functionality I have gotten from Vista Media Center outshines anything I have seen and used in the CE world. Of course, I will come out with an article explaining what I like about Media Center!

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