Introducing the Media Center PC

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With its IR remote, Microsoft’s new Media Center PC blueprint is already behind its times. My ATI Remote Wonder uses a radio signal, which doesn’t need line of sight, i.e. it’s able to go through (thin) walls and doesn’t need you to point to its receiver. Believe me, a PC remote beats having to lean forward to mess with the mouse to pause (divx or DVD) movie playback.
And the remote is not just useful in a couch potato scenario: it’s also very handy to pause Winamp or control volume while you’re playing a full-screen game (yes it works even if Winamp works in the background). And that’s where Microsoft scenarios misses the point, because they don’t include user multitasking. You can work while you listen to music in the background, or have video playing somewhere on your screen. There’s a middle ground between fully leaning forward (the traditional PC experience) and fully leaning back (watching TV in the couch.)
Where Microsoft’s "vision" is most lacking is when it’s conveying the passive "consumer" image. There’s no word of user-created content. Microsoft, among all, should know better. At least HP lists user content among their Media PC benefits. And why did MS leave gaming out the pitch? Ain’t that "entertainment" as well? Finally, their design is too desktop centric. How can I use my LAN to easily access and manage all these content sources?
Back to implementation details, I’m not sure how usable is Microsoft’s claimed ability to browse a music collection with the remote. Show me a UI that works well with a remote and lets you navigate 1,500 albums. I’m all for better TV support on the PC though, so the fact that Microsoft starts pushing it might improve things. Even the latest version of my Pinnacle PCTV Rave’s viewing software is less than stable, and refuses to be moved to my second monitor (where I most want it to go).
Last thing, why oh why do they have to stick flat screens everywhere? Yes they look slick, but except for desk space purposes, they’re still flatly beaten (mwah mwah) by CRTs as far as price/performance goes. You can have a great 19" CRT for the price of an average 15" LCD (and you’ll get better contrast and motion fidelity too.)
So why try to out-Apple Apple? It makes look the whole media PC look masturbatory in a Fight-Clubesque Ikean way, and increases the required budget quite a lot (if you want a reasonably big monitor, let alone two). People are used to huge TV sets anyway, so get back to the utilitarian and bulky CRTs until the price for quality, large flat screens is right.

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