Windows Media Center Going Headless?

Chris Lanier posted about a tip that Windows Media Center might be going headless.  I think this is great that Microsoft is looking at ways to get the features of Windows Media Center to users without having another computer in the house.  When you start looking at Media Center as a family digital media center, you have to remove it from the desktop.  I don’t want to have my desktop act as the server for everyone’s data in the house.  Also I want to turn my powerful desktop off at night.

Microsoft already has a great product for families to store files, the Windows Home Server.  It wouldn’t take much to build recording and better digital file management features into Windows Home Server.  I’m sure this is what they were getting at when the Windows Home Server team proposed seprate versions of Windows Home Server. There were other reason for separate versions but I’m sure if they built Windows Media Center into it they would want separate versions.

Ultimately, I think Windows Media Center is changing.  Microsoft can’t compete with cable/satelite set-top DVRs.  Do you really think they will ever overtake them?  I don’t.  I think with a headless media center/home server box you don’t need to focus on the DVR software.  You focus on file management and distribution.  You work with set-top boxes to store their data and distribute it to other set-top boxes in the house or extenders.  It creates the ultimate multi-room viewing for not just recorded shows but all digital files.  I also think the set-top boxes should act as extenders.  That way you get the power of plug-ins through your set-top.

This type of setup would be good for everyone involved.  Cable/Satelite companies can sell the set-top at a higher price since it works with Windows Home Server as a backend.  Microsoft gets Windows Media Center into mainstream since almost everyone uses some form of a set-top box.  The consumer makes out the best with a multi-room DVR solution, plug-ins for Windows Media Center, and access to all of their digital content through all their set-top boxes.

This is a lot of wishful thinking.  It involves lots of working together with big companies.  I just think it’s time for Microsoft to really push Windows Media Center into mainstream or forget the project and move on.  They have struggled to figure out ways to work with digital signals.  CableCard had a rocky start and the promise of DirecTV support that hasn’t happened.  It’s time to stop focusing on that and start working with existing hardware that already supports it.

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