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July 7, 2004

TiVo: No Comparison.

Saw an article today titled "TiVo vs. Windows Media Center Edition."

I don't even have to read it to give an accurate outcome: TiVo wins, bar none.

Media Center, bluntly, was one of the stupidest ideas Microsoft has had in years. People don't want their computer in their entertainment center. Or in their living room, for that matter. Most people don't fancy watching movies or long stretches of television sitting at the computer. College students, maybe -- it's a hell of a lot less room used in a small apartment or dorm room.

But the simple fact remains that a computer doesn't really have a place in your entertainment center, and most people would rather have a computer in their office than their living room. And of course while you're using Media Center, you can't use the rest of the computer.

Where the heck is the utility in this idea? Who thought it up? Who thought it was good enough to actually bring it to market?

Other companies -- Apple, Elgato, TiVo -- get it.

TiVo started out doing one simple thing: sitting in your entertainment center and recording TV. People requested the ability to see their computer's content on the TV, and TiVo added it. Add some software to your computer, add your TiVo to your network, and now you have a worthwhile "media center." Watch TV, listen to music, look at your pictures... on your TV. While someone's using the computer.

Elgato manufactures a number of "digital hub" devices for Mac users, including the eyehome, which brings the non-television features of TiVo to your TV. In a box which sits in your entertainment center. While leaving your computer usable.

Apple heard how cool people thought it would be to stream their iTunes music through the house. So they announced AirPort Express: Plug it into the wall, hook it up to your stereo, and use your wired or wireless network. Tell iTunes to stream music to that unit, pick your favorite playlist, and voila -- music, without a computer in your living room.

Microsoft does kinda sorta get it with the Xbox, but its media features are pretty minimal, and the software for your computer is pretty horrible.

Dell, apparently not wanting to pay Microsoft the additional money for Media Center Edition, rolled their own equally worthless "Dell Media Center" that pops up every damn time you put in a DVD. Even better is that as Dell ships their systems, the stand-alone DVD player their Media Center runs isn't in the start menu, and doesn't run quite right on its own even if you can find it. Also, in the Dell tradition of making their rip-off implementation worse than the original (see also: Dell Digital DJ vs. iPod, Dell Axim PDA vs. other PocketPCs), the interface is terribly convoluted in places, and it's slooooow.

TiVo: 1.
Windows Media Center Edition: 0.
Dell Media Center: -5.

Posted by Colin at July 7, 2004 2:02 PM

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