Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One today in a live media spectacle that felt like a pale imitation of an Apple event. In the end what they unveiled looked a lot like some of the HTPC systems that I used to build more than a gaming console. In truth the new Xbox One probably has more in common with your traditional HTPC than Microsoft would like to admit. But there are still some cool things in it that make it interesting and probably unique in the industry.
Microsoft will never learn it seems. On top of making core changes to their OS there are now trying to spin those changes as simply responding to customer feedback. The problem with this stance is that this feedback has been around since before the launch of Window 8 and Microsoft not only ignored it, but told the critics that they would get used to it. Microsoft also ignored the feedback that their Modern UI was going to look like a mobile OS on anything that had a keyboard and a mouse; they ignored this too. In short Microsoft can try to spin their way out of their admission of failure, but no one is buying it.
For home theater enthusiasts there is some good news today as we have found out that XBMC is working on a Media Center for use with the Android operating system. Many sites are reporting this as a “leak”, but as the information comes straight from XBMC’s own page we are going to call it a sneak peak. Ever since the first few Android based media players popped up on the market we have noted a rather large gap in what they offer. While most of them do have access to a limited form of the internet and you can access pictures and other items from your own network, the UI is clunky and not really suited for a home theater environment.
Microsoft is working the Windows 8 angle in a very surprising way. Instead of their usual “if you just bought Windows” upgrade specials they are actually offering a promotion where anyone with a valid “consumer” license of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 can get an upgrade for only $39.99. Yep, you heard right; Microsoft is practically giving away Windows 8 if you want to upgrade.
We have recently be criticized for making the statement that Microsoft is attempting to force the use of cloud applications on people with their latest operating system. In Windows 8 we have seen a startling shift from the PC as a stand-alone work unit to making it more like a dumb terminal that just pulls data and software from services at Microsoft. Now, as we have mentioned before, we have built and designed cloud services and know the corporate mentality behind them.
So Microsoft is trying to defend their decision to cripple Windows 8 right out of the box. We told you a few days ago that Microsoft has chosen not to include Media Center or DVD playback support in the shipping version of Windows 8. To get either of these you will have to pay for some sort of upgrade. If you have the standard version of Windows 8 you will need to buy an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro and if you already have Pro you will need to buy the Media Pack upgrade.
Time for some Windows 8 news and there is plenty this morning some of which is going to make a few people that were considering Windows 8 a little hesitant. We have been covering the next operating system from Microsoft as it begins to develop its identity and the engineers hone in on performance and the shipping feature set. During this process the design flow feels less like a direction and more like a group of kids arguing over the remote.
With all of the hubbub about Spotify and other new music services it seems that Microsoft would like to get in on some of that MP3 love. To do this they are launching a new $10 Zune Pass service. Now, this is not a price reduction, but it is a new level of service. With the $15 price tag you get unlimited downloads, complete with DRM, and 10 song credits per month. You can use these to download DRM free songs that you can use in almost any way you like.
With the new $10 plan you get the same unlimited downloads, but you lose out on the 10 song credits. We are fairly certain that this will not bring in a ton of new Zune owners, but it certainly is a step in the right direction for Microsoft at this point. This news was accompanied by a rumor that Microsoft will be adding more video services to the Xbox 360. Some of the ones that are being tossed around are Comcast, HBO Go, Crackle and many more. The thing that makes this even more interesting is that is Microsoft is working on this for the XboX 360 then it is already planning to drop these into Windows 8’s Media Center.
Now I wonder if I can get confirmation on that Microsoft Run Media Service that I was hearing about. Maybe this report is not so much Microsoft adding these services in but offering an aggregation service for these and dropping this into Windows and the Xbox… Remember, Microsoft has already said they are working toward integrating Xbox and Windows, so this idea is not that far-fetched. We will work to find out more on this.
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In an odd turn of events Netflix, one of the largest internet streaming media companies, appears to have locked out the Windows 7 Media Center Plug-in. The issue began on June 29th in the early evening when reports of this issue popped up from different users around the net. We checked into the problem and found that while the rest of the service appeared to work flawlessly, you still could not view any movies. The error? Our apologies – we could not authenticate this request.