Why does Media Center suck so much, particularly for the Australian audience? We asked Microsoft and were graced with an anonymous spokesperson response.
Several weeks back we took a close look
at the Media Center that comes packed with Windows Vista Ultimate and Home Premium.
We discovered a half-arsed application in comparison to others that are available, particularly for Australians. Fundamental features of modern home theatre applications were either missing or severely hacked down.
In the words of APC reader, William K, "What is the point of spending extra [for a home theatre application] which has free alternatives?"
We quizzed Microsoft on these issues. Almost a month later, the company responded but specifically asked us to attribute the comments to 'a Microsoft spokesperson.' Saddle up.
Because it wasn't immediately obvious to us, we first asked what Microsoft had improved in the new Media Center over previous editions.
Aside from some spectacularly vague areas such as "improved search and organisation" and "an improved navigation model", the Microsoft spokesperson didn't seem to convey to us that Microsoft had improved much.
It does reckon, however, that the interface was a significant improvement, as subjective as that may be. It mentioned "pivots".
Closed-caption teletext and DVB subtitle services don't exist in Media Center. The spokesperson said Microsoft didn't have time to implement these, but it hopes to add them in future.
The new Media Center supports a program guide, but not for Aussies. The spokesperson says Microsoft was unable to get support from broadcasters for such a feature.
Admittedly, this isn't Microsoft's fault, as the commercial telly networks dispute the legality of permitting PVRs to use electronic program guides.
It's worth noting that a third-party service, IceTV, can provide a TV guide that it claims is independently created that works with XP's Media Centre (and, presumably Vista's), but you have to pay for it, and it is embroiled in a court case with a commercial TV network, so it's not necessarily the long-term answer, either.
You can plug in as many TV tuners as you like, however Media Center can only use two at any one time. We asked why, but the Microsoft spokesperson simply preached to us on how wonderful it is that "Media Center supports multiple TV tuners."
The spokesperson used the word ecosystem. Pass the bucket.
Microsoft ignored our question about the lack of pre-calculated Aussie tuning frequencies. Elsewhere in the world, you simply enter your postal or Zip code and Media Center downloads the appropriate channel information for your area. This is much faster than detecting each channel.
When we came to the appalling lack of Picture-in-Picture support, the Microsoft spokesperson first chose to dodge our question by claiming it already has PiP support, with the current-playing media following you around the menu system.
Actually, it doesn't go everywhere -- the main menu, for example -- but let's ignore this for now.
Why can't we view two shows at once? The Microsoft spokesperson responded, "viewing a video within a video is not allowed at this time."
Not allowed. Not allowed?! That's right, kids, you're not allowed to have that. It's probably quite easy to implement, but it's unreasonable to expect functionality that at least mirrors other available theatre applications and all that nonsense.
According to APC reader, McBanjo, "... until Microsoft starts changing and listens to what people want, they can stay out of my lounge room and out of my life."