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Has Media Center lost its critical mass?

Posted by onlydarksets on February 1, 2008

I’ve used a HTPC for about 6 years now, and I’ve run ’em all – SageTV, Beyond, Myth, GB-PVR, and, of course, Vista Media Center (formerly known as Windows Media Center). I’ve settled on VMC, because it allows me to record ATSC and NTSC, stream live TV from either to an extender, and, thanks to DVRMSToolbox, skip commercials automatically while watching a show without have to actually cut them out and automatically convert to a format watchable on my Zune (formerly on my WM phone).

Lately, though, it seems that progress has not only halted, but it’s started to slide backwards. First, as the developer of DTb (babgvant) notes, there have been no major improvements in over 2 years (i.e., since Rollup 2 was released in October 2005). Second, after upgrading to Vista to take advantage of the one improvement – the UI, I noticed a bug that causes a good percentage of my shows (10-25%) to have an incorrect duration of only 5 minutes. Again, thanks to babgvant, there is a workaround (see here for latest version and here for steps to use DTb to automate), but Microsoft refuses to release a fix for it (they have their reasons, but I don’t happen to agree with them). Third, other vendors (particularly Sage) are introducing compelling features that are drawing the development and configuration talent away from VMC. For example, jelwood (who added native DVR-MS support to mencoder and ffmpeg) has “hung up his green buttoned remote” in favor of Sage (and, with the introduction of silent 1080p hardware extenders for Sage at $199 a pop, I can’t say I disagree with anything he said).

At this point, the only things keeping me with VMC are that I am familiar with how it works and I have a working setup. If I have to wipe the system clean and start over, I’ll probably re-install MCE 2005 and give Sage a try, and then dual boot to Vista Ultimate. Unless, of course, MS ups the ante.

Is anyone else in the same boat?


One Response to “Has Media Center lost its critical mass?”

  1. andy vt said

    I think MC is nearing a cross roads where it’s in serious danger of becoming a un-enthusiast platform. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing for MC, but it would be bad for the enthusiast crowd. I really hope there’s some cool stuff coming in Fiji; for many of those who have been waiting for Vista’s promise to be realized, that will be the decider.

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