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Doug's Mailbag: Windows Media Center Praise

Here's a couple of readers who will miss the fact that Windows Media Center won't be free anymore:

WMC is very good software. I have a TV tuner card and use WMC all the time. I have two monitors so I can write e-mail on one screen and watchthe news on the other. You are missing out. But I suppose your Mac doesn't have Windows Media Center, does it?

The DVR function is also very nice. Why pay TIVO every month when you can get the same features on your computer with no extra fees?

I gather that the entire DVR market is not growing, and the impending switch to on-demand programming lessens the chances that a Windows DVR machine will successfully challenge TIVO. Apparently TIVO is no longer growing and has probably seen its best days.

But what about the hints that the new Xbox720 will target the non-gamer with enhanced media capabilities? The WMC development team was recently reported to have been broken up and the developers transferred to the Xbox team. Even though Microsoft has been reported to have capped off WMC development, I won't be surprised to see something like it residing in a new Xbox for the media center.

In my opinion, Media Center is one of the best things about Windows. It supports multiple tuners (including network tuners and CableCard) and plays a variety of formats (including Internet TV, DVD, Netflix, etc.). Guide updates are free. With a $100 HD tuner, I can watch one show while recording another, or record two shows at the same time. You can get small USB tuners that allow laptop users to watch broadcast TV anywhere.

PC users have always paid extra for third-party software that enables functions not built into the operating system. Although Microsoft has not announced a price for Media Center, Steven Sinofsky has said Microsoft is aiming for single-digit dollars. That sounds more than reasonable when compared to other media applications like CyberLink and Nero.

As for DVD, the OEMs already include playback software on any PC that comes with an optical drive. The excellent and free media player VLC also plays DVDs.

We're used to getting Media Center at no extra charge, but I don't find it at all unreasonable to pay under $10 extra for such a useful product. I think those who are so vocally condemning this should consider the great value they obviously get from Media Center (or why would they be complaining?), compared to the very small amount they are likely to have to pay going forward. I don't believe there's a better software DVR available anywhere, at any price.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 05/16/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Tue, May 22, 2012 Dana Taylor Iowa

First, I love Windows Media Center. But - There are a couple of issues I have, one with WMC itself and one with the guide that comes with it. The first issue is that WMC will not display or record content from the composite or component video inputs built into my tuner card. I'm not sure if it is an issue with the age of the card or what - it's a Haupage model. I have many old VHS home movies I would like to convert to DVD but have no way (at the moment) to capture them. The second issue is that our local cable company eliminated all analog signals way back in January which changed all the channel numbers and allocations. WMC doesn't do a "real" scan when discovering what is available on the network. It only scans those channels that are listed in the guide. Problem is, the Guide still hasn't updated their channel listing for our area (4 months later) so there are a lot of channels that don't show up and all the old analog channels are still listed even though there is no programming on them. One can manually set up missing channels, and I have done so for those that are important to me, but there is no program listing for them. One can't record any content on them because the app doesn't know when a program begins and ends.

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