Windows to the rescue?

Cnet has assembled a collection of articles on Microsoft’s new version of its Windows Media Center software.

Apparently the new software does two things:

  1. Costs a fortune.

  2. Allows you to record TV on your computer.

Contrast this to TiVo, which

  1. Is practically free.

  2. Allows you to record TV on your TV, where you actually watch TV.

Watch out, people! The Dark Empire will soon possess your TV, too! This does remind me of the days when Windows first came out. Remember that? It was the software that made your computer look like a Mac, except when you actually needed to get some work done, at which point you immediately broke out and returned to the C: prompt.

Now, of course, everyone and her brother uses Windows, which has gotten much better at imitating Macs full-time. Give Microsoft some time, and they’ll probably be able to do almost everything TiVo does, and almost as cheaply. The supposed benefit of Windows Media Center is that it allows you to share the TV shows you’ve recorded on your computer with other devices. I think TiVo already has this feature, but it would require me to spend another hundred bucks. Occasionally I’ve recorded something on one TiVo unit and wish I could move it to the other one, like when I start watching the baseball game in the living room and then decide I’d like to finish watching upstairs. Then I think, “is this worth a hundred bucks,” and usually I tell myself, “nah,” and find something else to watch. Now Windows has the same feature, for only two grand!

Of course we all know the road we’re heading down. Microsoft wants to dominate this market so that they can control the intellectual property it contains. If Microsoft owns the standard for video playback, then Microsoft gets a share of everyone’s entertainment dollar. I think it would be bad for everyone if Microsoft does this, because Microsoft already gets a share of everyone’s computing dollar (except for a few Mac/Linux die-hards).

TiVo is already losing market share to no-name competitors (such as the “free DVR” that comes with your cable TV service), so it’s looking quite vulnerable now. If Microsoft continues this road to dominance, watch out: the next virus attack may not only destroy your computer, but your television as well.

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