Media Center Moves Out My TV

A great write-up about how seeing a Windows XP Media Center in someone’s living room is really all that’s needed to sell it (my experience anyway). I’ve witnessed the same reactions with my own neighbors as those explained below. This is from

Warning to vendors: Most consumers won't rush out to do what I here recount. Yet.

Friday evening, we kicked the TV out of the living room, booting the ugly, oversized, clutter-gathering entertainment center--what I unaffectionately call "the shrine"--down the basement stairs. The TV has gone basement way, too, collecting dust in a seldom-visited corner. Replacement: Desk, Windows Media Center PC and 19-inch monitor.

The tale starts two weeks ago, when my neighbor offered us a basic, but rather good condition, real-wood desk (no press board). I got to thinking seriously about putting a Media Center PC in the living room, eliminating clutter and all the disintegrated devices we already had there--TV, DVD player, digital cable box and stereo system. Thursday night, I asked my wife about changing the living room. She's not exactly computer savvy, so I expected fierce resistance. I got none. She was an easy sell on consolidation and decluttering.

We started work just after 6 p.m. on Friday and had the new setup in place about two-and-a-half hours later: One Windows Media Center PC, HP f1903 19-inch flat-panel monitor, Logitech LX 500 wireless keyboard and mouse, Bose Companion 3 speakers, Linksys USB 802.11g wireless adapter and Maxtor 250MB external hard drive.

The new setup is surprisingly clean looking compared to the old one. The Bose speakers aren't my favorites--I prefer the Logitech Z-2200s in my office--but they're stylish and offer great fidelity in the range that suits my TV and DVD tastes (my family's, too, I hope). The monitor was just right for replacing our 20-inch Sony Trinitron TV. Maybe we could get something bigger for the holidays.

The setup completely transformed the living room over the weekend, with the TV's dominance ceding way to more music--even with family photos in the background--all manipulated by remote control and Media Center's 10-foot user interface. Rather than channel surfing--something pretty much everyone did before with 60-plus pay channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) and on-demand services--TV viewing switched to specifics: Recorded shows watched when there was time, or DVDs picked from a bookcase purchased at IKEA on Saturday. My goal is to shift all video to the family's schedule, either by DVR, DVD rentals or Web-based on-demand services like CinemaNow, MovieLink or the Real/Starz.

On Saturday, the mother of my daughter's best friend stopped in and asked about the new living room setup. She repeated, "wow" and "amazing" as she explored Media Center's features. "You could just get rid of everything else," she exclaimed. But when she said, "These are new, right?," I stopped startled. She had never seen a Media Center PC before.

In my report, "Windows XP Hybrids: Turning Media Center and Tablet PC Potential into Profits," I explain why Media Center computers must be sold and offer best practices for doing so. Last week I blogged about real-word, bad in-store experiences with Windows Media Center PCs.

In just a five-minute demonstration, I had my daughter's friend's mother sold on a Media Center PC (Santa will be packing a heavy load her way this year). She had been thinking about getting a new family PC (right now she and her partner use work-issued notebooks; he works at home a lot). What shocked her: How good live TV looked on the 19-inch HP monitor and how clear music boomed from the diminutive Bose speakers. She immediately appreciated the benefits.

But as a fairly computer-savvy individual, she should have known something about Media Center PCs. That she didn't, and about a half-dozen other like-experienced people I quizzed thiz weekend, says something about the untapped potential Microsoft and its partners are missing. Products typically must be marketed to be sold--and in the case of Media Center, experienced, too. The market is ripe for increased Media Center adoption, and my report, "Windows Media Connect/Extender: Divining Distinct Sales Opportunities Among Non-wired and Wireless Households," explains the opportunity with respect to TV and PC placement in different rooms of the home.

If not marketing, how about a little evangelism from Microsoft? Just through blogging, Microsoft created way too much buzz about next-generation-Windows Longhorn. How about blogging evangelism about Media Center, a product Microsoft sells today--not two years from now? My blog is a start.


[Microsoft Monitor]