Saturday, February 19, 2011

A little late

Been a bit delayed in writing this up. I was hoping to write a post on setting up my HTPC with the Ceton Infiniti4 TV card but it didn't ship out until a few days ago. It seems there is a good bit of demand, it was almost a six month wait to get it.

In the meantime there have been a couple of interesting developments in the tech world, particularly with regard to media centers.  I'll start with the bad news.

There was a recent article about Microsoft abandoning its media center software for PCs and instead focusing on embedded systems.  It makes some sense, Windows Media Center (WMC) hasn't seen much adoption.  Having played around with it only a little bit I think this could be due to a rather incomplete implementation and some inconsistencies between succeeding generations.  It just requires too many addons and tweaks to make it user friendly.  It will be interesting to see how it fares embedded in media appliances where tweaking could take on an added degree of difficulty.

The reason why the potential demise of WMC for PC's is a downer is because there isn't any other way to get CableCards to work with cable TV.  You need to have a secure platform that prevents user access in order to get certification to be compatible with CableCard and the TV on PC products that compete with Microsoft are open-source and thus have no chance of being approved.  In the same vein, its unlikely that a high def version of the Vudu movie service will be available on PC's other than through WMC.  For now, its only available on the Boxee platform and even there only plays back in standard def.

Now for some good news. There was a major announcement from the XBMC camp a few weeks ago, XBMC has been successfully ported to Apple's AppleTV, Ipod and Iphone.  Its a fantastic accomplishment and with the response its received it will be getting lots of developer attention.

The XBMC announcement puts an interesting spin on the upcoming battle between the second generation Ipad and the Honeycomb (Android 3.0) tablets that will be coming out in the next few months.  So far the Android camp hasn't been doing very well. The first generation of Android tablets were lacking in features and software.  There was a lot of hype about the second generation Honeycomb tablets, and in particular the Motorola Xoom. The Xoom had its first ad during the Super Bowl and the reaction was overall negative.  At the Super Bowl party I attended the reaction was generally "So its like an Ipad then".  On the internet, the reaction was more intense due to the buzz that the first Xoom tablets would require buying into a Verizon data plan and would be around $800.  Since then there's been news that there will be a cheaper, Wifi only, model but that it won't be out until the middle of the year.

From a marketing perspective, this is a stupid move.  Tablet sales have for the most part been primarily Wifi only. I saw some estimates that around 80% or more of Ipad sales were for the cheaper Wifi only models instead of the pricier 3G models that require a monthly data plan.  This means that Xoom sales aren't likely to take off until summertime.  However, between now and then Apple will launch its second generation Ipad.  This will end up hurting sales of the Xoom and other Honeycomb tablets.  Following in the wake of a new Ipad is probably the worst possible time to introduce a tablet.

On a personal note, I've had an Android phone for several months and think its great, if occasionally frustraing. This week, in preparation for getting rid of our cable box I bought an Ipod Touch in hopes that it could be used as a remote for the HTPC that my daughter can use.  I've never really used the Apple interface much before and its quite a change from what I'm used to.

The biggest surprise to me was that I missed the Android market.  On the Apple market so many of the apps being offered have poor ratings or are free to install but require in app payments to get real functionality.  With Android I find you get more functionality for free and its easier to find the best apps in a category.  With Apple it seems that everything that's good will cost you several dollars and even crap is a buck or two.  I guess its just part of the learning curve.

That's it for now. Hopefully the next post will be sooner. Next weekend I should be setting up my new TV card and seeing how much I can integrate it into my home network. Should be fun.

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