I love my Windows Media Center setup.
A few years ago my cable company was charging me $15-20/month per HD-DVR for what I felt was an expensive and pretty lackluster service. The capacity of each DVR was pretty small and they were incapable (at the time) of sharing content between my DVRs which forced me to have to delete documentaries that I was saving in smug self-satisfaction and to have to decide which TV I would watch a show on before I set it to record .
To deal with these issues I built a home theater PC with a Ceton Tuner that has 4 Terra-bytes of storage space and which paid for itself in 28 months, once I ditched the cable company’s DVRs. (Not bad!) The HTPC outputs content, both live and recorded to my XBOX 360s through using it as a Windows Media Extender. It also pushes movies and music to the Xbox extenders which makes for a great whole home entertainment solution.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has been killing off my beloved Windows Media Center (WMC) and there are numerous discussion boards and articles which discuss and bemoan its demise.
Causing even more consternation for those of us in the WMC crowd is the release of the new Xbox One and its emphasis upon home entertainment and TV…yet no mention of its working as a WMC extender. The existence of HDMI pass-through also seemed to indicate an intention on the part of Microsoft that the new Xbox would only provide an overlay to cable companies’ set top boxes – thus shackling us to their fees and tiny storage capacity.
As fans of new technology what are we supposed to do? Get a cable box? Not get the latest toy and be an outcast amongst our geeky friends? Have two devices to do two different jobs? Seriously? After all we’re not savages!
Then while reading through the “What It Does” page on the Xbox One website, I noticed a footnote leading to the following requirement for TV Functionality:
“1. Supported television tuner or cable/satellite set top box with HDMI output and HDMI cable required (all sold separately).”
What is the most important word in that little footnote? I’d say it’s the humble little word “or”.
It’s so important that it burst out to me like a ray of sunlight through the clouds.
If I am parsing the meaning of that sentence properly, it seems to indicate that there will be an option to use a tuner that is not a set top box. This opens up all kinds of possibilities.
My biggest wish for the previous big Xbox 360 Dashboard update (Metro) was that they would ditch the native music and video players and ‘bake’ the functionality of Windows Media Center straight into the metro-style dashboard. Hypothetically using something like the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service to serve up content stored on a PC hard drive (such as music and movies), and then add network tuner support for sending live TV across a home network. Support for TV tuners MIGHT mean that they are taking a step in that direction. Additionally, the fact that the new Xbox will have Windows 8 built-in seems to indicate that this kind of integration is at the very least possible.
This is the hope that I am clinging to – but of course, this is all just rampant speculation and wishful thinking on my part.
UPDATE: As I was reading though some forum posts at “The Green Button” I came across a comment that pointed to the FAQ on the Official Xbox news thread, which read:
Q: Do I need to have a specific cable or satellite TV provider to watch live TV on Xbox?
A: Our goal is to enable live TV through Xbox One in every way that it is delivered throughout the world, whether that’s television service providers, over the air or over the Internet, or HDMI-in via a set top box (as is the case with many providers in the US). The delivery of TV is complex and we are working through the many technologies and policies around the world to make live TV available where Xbox One is available.
This seems to me to be further evidence of my aforementioned possibility of having WMC “baked right in” to the new dashboard.
I will continue to update this post as I learn more.