If you haven’t been following the news from the Windows Media Center community over the last month, HP and Linksys, leading manufacturers of extenders for Windows Media Center have discontinued their products.
I have an HP extender so I found this news quite unsettling. I could build or buy a PC to connect directly to the TV but I like the model of having a dedicated, quiet box connected to the TV. One that takes a simple reset when needed and doesn’t have all the hassles of having to maintain another PC in the house.
So where does that leave us? There are a couple other minor players in the extender game but is looks like currently the XBox 360 is the only other option. The main drawback with XBox is the noise and power draw. It is a good option if you are a gamer but not for the rest of us. Plus it isn’t really a good sale to non-gamers in my opinion. I just don’t think non-gamers ‘get’ that the 360 can be used beyond games.
Still, this week brings us new news on the extension of the XBox functionality including: Zune Marketplace for XBox Live and a whole slew of other new features the bring new content to the living room including Facebook, Twitter and streaming 1080P video.
And did you hear about the Zune HD? It is a beautiful device with a capacitive touch, OLED screen. Now as beautiful as it is going to be, take a look at the fine print:
*Zune HD & AV Dock, and an HDTV (all sold separately) are required to view video at HD resolution. Supported 720p HD video files play on the player, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272 – not HD resolution.
Well, ok, that makes sense. I mean it is a portable device so it would be a waste to try and make it HD on the internal screen.
Now for my theory about all this. The 360 is still going to be a great extender and Zune stuff is really starting to become part of the mix. But wait, go back to the fine print on the Zune HD…an AV Dock? A dock isn’t usually something you carry around. It is something you leave connected to your TV. Similar to the Xbox. Similar to, yes, extenders. Are you with me? The AV dock is going to be an extender!
Ok, this is just my thoughts and so far no one I’ve talked to has seen the dock. But look at all the cool Zune stuff being added to the echo system. And when is the Zune HD slated for release? About the same time we’ll see Windows 7 later this year.
So what does my theoretical world look like? A dock connected to the TV via HDMI with a media center interface. A connected Zune appears as just one other item of content to play along with Recorded TV, Music etc. It can get content from your Windows 7 media center. You can also stream content to it via other Windows 7 devices and the Play To feature. Drop in your new Zune HD and it will sync up your songs and, since the AV Dock is networked, grab stuff from the Zune store. If the Zune is in the Dock you could have the option of adding content from the 10-foot interface. Great for taking that TV show you are currently watching along with you.
I know, I’m crazy.
Have another look at the fine print. Notice the other important thing? ‘All sold separately.’ Yeah, most of the time that is stupid up-selling but guess what this means to me? This is key… The dock will work without the Zune HD! So I might go buy a new dock and forgo buying a Zune HD because I have an iPod or something. After a while I’ll see all the features on my TV that I can’t have because I don’t have a Zune HD and I’ll go buy one.
All of this, to me, is very possible. Maybe I have completely lost it but if I were Microsoft I’d be doing something like this. It would be a serious value add to the Zune/Xbox/Media Center ecosystem and seriously put a dent in the iPod market share.