Despite Limited Uptake, Windows Media Center Lives On


Despite limited uptake, Microsoft’s very fine and mostly free Media Center experience will live to fight another day within Windows 8.

How limited is usage? Well we don’t have complete stats, but based on this Windows 7 sampling, I’d say significant engagement is well under 1% of installs. Of course, 1% of bazillions could be a significant number. From Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky,

Our opt-in usage telemetry shows that in July, Windows Media Center was launched by 6% of Windows 7 users globally with the heaviest usage in Russia, Mexico, and Brazil (frequency and time). However, most people are just looking around; only one quarter (25% of 6%) of these people used it for more than 10 minutes per session (individual averages)

In fact, while Media Center won’t be retired, Sinofsky goes on to categorize it as “low profile” and states it won’t be available in early Windows 8 builds due to engineering and business decisions. With this kind of backing, it’s really no surprise the Ciscos and HPs of the industry haven’t stepped up with new hardware extenders. But I’m hopeful the audience is significant enough for smaller companies like Silicon Dust, Hauppauge, or Ceton to stake a claim.

(via Ed Bott)

21 thoughts on “Despite Limited Uptake, Windows Media Center Lives On”

  1. Cable TV + Windows Media Center + Large LCD Monitor + Surround Sound System = Best Entertainment Center

    I’ll admit I haven’t tried other free options, such as XBMC, but it would be a real shame if they abandoned/removed WMC.

  2. “Of course, 1% of bazillions could be a significant number.”

    Yup. That’s the beauty of general-purpose computer platforms.

    Niches can thrive.

  3. I wouldn’t mind if MS made Media Center an optional download instead of building it into Windows at an OS level.

    For the most part I use Windows Media Center for the Netflix plugin and music player, while I use Boxee or BeyondTV for other videos. If less than 5 percent of Windows users are taking advantage of Media Center I wouldn’t be surprised to see it divorced from the OS one day… but I hope MS continues to make it available for download. If not, there are still a number of decent third party media center apps — although with Snapstream/BeyondTV largely exiting the consumer space and SageTV having recently been acquired by Google there aren’t as many options for TV-tuner specific software as there once were.

    Anyone know if gbpvr or MediaPortal are as polished as the pro software yet?

    I still think the best possible media center is an HTPC since it’s far more versatile than any set top box — but I’m really looking forward to low power, ARM-based Windows 8 computers. Right now my media center is an energy hog and I’d really like to be able to replace it with a lower power PC one day.

  4. While I have found I like Media Center and am definitely happy it will be sticking around, I still find I prefer TiVo. I really hope Microsoft steps up and updates it for Windows 8. It does have a bunch of good features, but there are some noticeably absent ones also such as the remote tools like TiVo gives you.

    Any chance Dave you might do a comparison of TiVo vs 7MC since you have the HD Prime for testing? I know Ben did one years ago, but I am curious to see your take on it.

  5. more people need to buy hdhomeruns and start using media center.

    one of the best toys i’ve bought in years. Especially because of the affordability.

  6. Nothing can touch MediaCenter. I used to have a Tivo but it is so limiting. Because it’s a real computer you can run anything. No worries about Hulu being blocked, run SlingPlayer, run ESPN3, whatever you want. Tivo can’t compete. Plus I have a WHS with tons of media and MediaBrowser is a tremendous interface for that. I have looked at other PC based MediaCenters but found them less polished and user friendly.

    I am thrilled that MS is going to continue to support MediaCenter. After they effectively killed WHS, I was worried.

    I’d love more extenders, but with WHS and HDHomeRuns small, NetTop PC’s work pretty well.

  7. TiVo can’t compete if you want those websites, but if you don’t and just want a DVR then TiVo in many ways is better than Media Center. It all depends on your usage. For me Media Center is just a way to record and serve content to my TiVos. It works pretty good, but I find myself still using TiVo over Media Center.

  8. I too prefer TiVo’s user interface, but not at 15 bux a month if WMC is included with Windows. I have it running on an old PC with a Hauppage dual tuner card that connects to my TV and use it all the time. Over the air HD is amazing, NetFlix works great and there are other sources of video as well, which WMC supports just fine. If they don’t keep it as an integral part of Windows, I agree with the poster above that it should be a download.

  9. Dana, thanks – fixed. It’s usually Hauppauge I spell wrong. :)

    brennok, you already know what I think as I don’t run MCE full time. Our primary television has a TiVo Premiere. If I lived alone, I’d be much more likely to use Media Center and if there were $60 Roku-esque extenders I’d also be more likely. My wife is very comfortable with the TiVo – and I take control and flip to alternate inputs for all my other boxes.

    Regarding the future, I’m not expecting much change given how Microsoft sees this. It’s unfortunate actually, as they should have merged the Mediaroom and Media Center groups about three years ago. And then made it a separate download/product or have two tiers of service – like a freebie one to get accustomed to it and then some sort of upsell where they could make a little money. WHS is another missed opportunity for Microsoft and Media Center. Ah well.

    SageTV leaving the arena has changed things… not sure where Google will take them. Officially integrate CableCARD supprot? Abandon Windows in favor of Google TV or Motorola set-tops? I wonder if they even know.

  10. He does not categorize MC as “low profile”. He mentions that it will be missing from the initial test builds similar to some other programs he calls “major ones” like Windows 7 Games, DVD creator, etc. The “low profile” ones are the ones he did not feel were important enough to mention. Also he stated “This data in no way influenced not delivering it as part of the first pre-release build—we are as committed as ever to Media Center.” Sounds like some pretty strong backing to me.

  11. Eh, I read it as MC is one of the top (“major”) low profile add-ins. Regardless, I agree his comments provide compelling evidence media center functionality will live on within Windows 8 and it shows good insight to speak to the core enthusiasts in this way… but I have to believe he placed it in context for a reason (“everyone i know uses it” versus actual data). We’ll see what it looks like closer to launch (and if they spend any money promoting it). It’s not like he said, “We’ve got grand plans for MC and you’re going to love where we’re headed.”

  12. Glad to see it will live on in windows 8 but I’m in the not expecting anything new camp. The delay is probably so they can extract the codecs to ge sold seperately.

    As for those that prefer TiVo’s UI, I’m convinced it is familiarity. I was a TiVO user for years before switching to mc a few years ago and would wrongly diagree with that. The real problem with mc is the regular support calls from the wife.

  13. “It’s not like he said, “We’ve got grand plans for MC and you’re going to love where we’re headed.”

    But let’s think of WMC as a CableCARD delivery system.

    CableCARD isn’t doing anything new, but it also isn’t going anywhere for a while. Why shouldn’t WMC mirror that basic philosophy?

    If I were Mister Softee, I wouldn’t be rushing to go after the Roku market at this particular moment either.

    And if I were a WMC user instead of a TiVo user, I’d be happy with benign neglect from the mothership. If they got interested in it again, they’d probably slap a ribbon on the screen and a ribbon the remote. I’d just happily abide knowing that I’m dealing with a company that respects legacy.

  14. I gave up on my TiVo Series 3 in favor of a HTPC running W7MC, and I was really surprised how excellent a piece of software it is, and “free” to boot. I don’t even use it as a dedicated HTPC, but for some older games, web browsing etc, just a general use computer hooked to the TV. It still always records when it’s supposed to. I have 2 cheap USB Tuners at $25 a pop and an antenna hooked up to them. It’s a great value, and I’m glad MS is deciding to keep it in the next version of Windows.

  15. Agree that WMC is going to be around for a while, but given that its the ONLY general purpose platform that supports cable card, it will be a real loss if it ever goes. But all you guys posting how much you love it have to understand that given how few of you there are, you just aren’t a focus for Microsoft anymore.

    All the extenders are gone. Windows Media Center embedded PCs never showed up. There are questions about the future of the XBox as a WMC Extender–sounds like future versions will be more focused on internet streaming services/options.

    There are also suddenly a rash of cable card options. Very odd.

    As long as things stay the way they are, with cable cards and DTAs and all that, I assume WMC will continue to work. To the extent things change (AllVid, 3D video, something else), its entirely possible that support will NOT be coming to a future WMC version…

    Things are a little shaky right now. But hey, its better than them saying its cancelled.

  16. To paraphrase Steve Ballmer – simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. It is the age old curse of the very thing that makes Microsoft big in the market – versatility in doing things – makes it simply a niche in others. Folks who watch TV want simplicity. heck TiVo seems too complicated to many folks who would use a DVR.
    So for geeks that want versatility then WMC is the way to go and all costs are upfront. However until that cheap appliance comes out running WMC, it simply will never rise above niche and Microsoft knows it. Apple also knows this and thus their “TV” offerings are also niche items in their product catalog.

    sorry geeks but regular folks will continue to thwart our efforts to get media on a mainstream versitile platform

  17. I don’t know what incentive Microsoft would have to drop WMC. I can’t imagine it costs the company a lot to include it, and if only one-half of 1 percent of Windows 7 users are using it, that’s still 2 million users. If those people didn’t have WMC, they’d use someone else’s software — or maybe even install Linux on their HTPCs.

  18. It’s a drag that none of the Windows 8 versions will ship with WMC. It’ll be available as an add-on, but it’s still a drag, everything considered.

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