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Thread: Media-centre PCs slow-selling and at risk of annihilation, says GfK

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    Media-centre PCs slow-selling and at risk of annihilation, says GfK

    Market research specialist GfK says that despite the ever-increasing number of media-centre PCs on offer - and the excitement they're causing within the industry - sales volumes in the UK are small because consumers remain uneducated and unconvinced.

    More worrying still, GfK warns that media-centre PCs, which it says have typically only been bought by early adopters, could be killed off by the next generation of media gateways that allow streaming over home networks from existing PCs to existing TV sets and AV systems.
    Check out this HEXUS.headline and share with us here your thoughts about the future prospects and direction of media-centre PCs.

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    AKA Chrispynutt Gunbuster's Avatar
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    Of course, if you look at the most popular set-top boxes that are selling to the general public most I would guess are the cheapo £30 DVD players and Freeview boxes. I can't imagine anyone really wanting a box that costs more than their TV. Vista Media Center will require an even more heavy weight machine, where as the latest build of XBMC runs pretty slick on a sub 1ghz cpu. Maybe Windows just is too big for a cheap set-top box.

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    mutantbass head Lee H's Avatar
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    Sorry, but MCE2005 is going to fall flat on it's arse and this time it's not going to be Microsoft's fault.

    The reason I feel that this operating system is going to fail is down to the total lack of driver support for this operating system that I first highlighted Here and STILL we have no action at all regarding updates to drivers and the required SLI profiles for the lastest games

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    Moderator DavidM's Avatar
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    I like MCE, but I think my next system build will be either Linux or XP Pro.

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    The big issue I see with using anything other than MCE on media centre PCs is the absence of an interface that can be comfortably used from your sofa (ie BIG characters and graphics and decent menuing).

    Or is there some cute Linux front-end app that does this as well or better than MCE's?

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    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    I kind of agree with Gunbuster on this. But, i can see MCE being far more popular when sold by the likes of Scan along with components than being bundled with complete machines. It seems to me that most people willing to plash out on an MCE machine are also going to be using it for games etc in their bedroom (at least thats how is appears from the threads on here).

    As the software moves on i think MCE will also have far more competition from Open Source alternatives. MediaPortal, although not perfect by a long way, is coming on pretty well. MythTV is also on a rather rapid development schedule, there is also a Windows branch being developed under Google's Summer of Code.

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    i agree that consumers aren't educated enough for them. but surely a good media centre wouldnt require the user to have any more knowledge than a desktop user?
    I was working as an engineer in a shop when they were first released. The retail department didn't have a clue what they were talking about and confused the customer even more... even though they ended up buying one. i always saw them a week or two later asking us to install stuff on it because they have done something stupid to it claiming that "the guy who sold it to me said this was how to do it".

    can't we just make a machine that can integrate with other media and not brand it a 'Media Centre'? what is the difference between XP Pro and 'media centre edition'?
    Last edited by DeMilo; 03-07-2006 at 11:25 AM.
    And God said "Let there be light." But then the program crashed because he was trying to access the 'light' property of a NULL universe pointer.

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    I would have thought most media centre/center pcs are home builds, and not bought ones. Don't forget about the Xbox 360 too.

    I have MCE2005 and I think it's fantastic for TV recording. The PC is my main PC, and is not linked to a TV, so I'm still yet to experience the 'living room PC'. I'm waiting till I get a HD set before I do that. I do think the concept is a good one, and I have convinced 2/3 of my family that we should have one!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent Shark
    I would have thought most media centre/center pcs are home builds, and not bought ones. Don't forget about the Xbox 360 too.

    I have MCE2005 and I think it's fantastic for TV recording. The PC is my main PC, and is not linked to a TV, so I'm still yet to experience the 'living room PC'. I'm waiting till I get a HD set before I do that. I do think the concept is a good one, and I have convinced 2/3 of my family that we should have one!
    Trouble is - from an industry perspective - home builds don't equate to big volumes.

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    Will work for beer... nichomach's Avatar
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    At the moment, the standard on a lot of the Dell Dimension and Inspiron machines is MCE (for the very good reason that there aint no Vista yet, and XP Home will be EOL before it ships even if there are no more delays). I can't see sales of the 5150 or 5150Cs slowing down any. They're not DESIGNED really as media centres, but they do the job OK. I doubt that they'll be counted in the market research above. It's not just home builds.

    That said, one big problem that I can see with the Media Centre PC is that the sort of person who'd use it is put off by the fact that they still have to keep their Telewest/NTL/Sky box as well. Hell, in the US the cable operators have been FORCED to allow people to use their own kit (hence Cablecard) even if they get away with crippling some of the services, but not here. So the prosepctive MCE customer has to shell out hundreds in order to get a machine that just accepts a coax input from their horrible clunky STB that still pixellates like **** and still freezes randomly and overheats like mad. Who's going to shell out for that? Look at the interview on Hexus with Mark Horley, NTL Telewest's head of TV strategy and his comment on cablecard:
    We don’t support it at the moment. We believe we can offer functionality like PVR in a much more user-friendly way where the consumer wants it – on the main TV in the living room, through our own set top boxes.
    In other words, if you want to use your own kit, which may be better quality and more reliable - you're stuffed.
    Last edited by Bob Crabtree; 04-07-2006 at 09:56 AM.

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    All hail the Mac mini
    http://www.apple.com/macmini/

    and Front Row that comes on EVERY Mac
    http://www.apple.com/macmini/frontrow.html

    and the Mac mini's upgradeability
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/...ad.php?t=91459

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    Will work for beer... nichomach's Avatar
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    Whilst I appreciate that you love the Mac mini (and I do think that it's an excellent machine), it really doesn't give you anything that MCE doesn't and it has exactly the same problems, except that the choice of TV tuners isn't so good. To put it another way, if I were going to shell out for a Mac mini as a media box, then I'd rather have MCE. As it stands, I don't want to shell out for either because I still have to keep that piss-poor Pace box. The NTL/Telewest TV Drive might be OK, but I'd still rather have MCE, especially in light of the problems that early adopters had, and the probability that it'll just be another underpowered overheating box under the TV. I can have my pixellation in HD rather than SD? Bonzer! Seriously, the Mac mini wouldn't allow me to get rid of my STB any more than MCE would.

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    mutantbass head Lee H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Funkstar
    I kind of agree with Gunbuster on this. But, i can see MCE being far more popular when sold by the likes of Scan along with components than being bundled with complete machines. It seems to me that most people willing to plash out on an MCE machine are also going to be using it for games etc in their bedroom (at least thats how is appears from the threads on here).
    Indeed - and don't forget that to get all the advanced features and fun out of your xbox360 Microsoft also recommends that you have a PC with MCE on the network so you can use the xbox as a media centre extender

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacQuest
    All hail the Mac mini
    http://www.apple.com/macmini/

    and Front Row that comes on EVERY Mac
    http://www.apple.com/macmini/frontrow.html

    and the Mac mini's upgradeability
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/...ad.php?t=91459
    I love the Mac mini to bits - as I think my recent review makes abundantly clear!

    The big problem with the big friendly front end that is Mac OS X's FrontRow, however, is that its does not cover TV reception - in contrast with XP MCE. And while that remains the case, it absolutely isn't a realistic competitor to MCE.

    But the beauty of the mini is that, like all new-gen Intel-based Macs, it can dual-boot between OS X and Windows.

    What I really wanted for the review was to use XP MCE on the mini - but it appeared that this isn't possible. However, by the time I found out that it is possible, it was too late for me to scrounge up a copy and install it.

    However, even though I didn't do that, I'd be willing to bet a considerable sum that a Mac mini running XP MCE (and using an external USB TV tuner) would make a real fine media-centre PC.

    But, just like any other home-build media-centre PC (and that's what it would have to be because Apple itself doesn't install XP MCE in a dual-boot configuration), it absolutely isn't a mass-market proposition.

    And, I think, what GfK is saying, is that media-centre PCs have still not become mass-market and won't ever do unless the makers and sellers get their acts together to make them affordable and to tell a selling story strong enough to make a whole lot of people want to own them.

    What I'd question, though, is whether in fact, there is any such strong story to tell.

    And so does GfK (though only obliquely) - by saying that the things that media centre PCs do can be done by cheaper boxes that sit under the TV and pull media off of the house's PCs over the network.

    I'd call these network media players but GfK calls them media gateways - and they are a very attractive proposition.

    But, rather like media-centre PCs, their benefits largely remain a mystery to most of the people to whom they would appeal.

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    Will work for beer... nichomach's Avatar
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    I did like the look of that Miglia tuner box; shame it was analogue only. So...my wish list would be as follows:

    A Mac mini running MCE with a Miglia box that could handle DVB-C (cable digital) and for Telewest to pull their finger out and give people the CHOICE to use their own kit. Simple really. What are the chances? Negligible...

    edit: Although in some ways I'd prefer a larger MCE PC, actually. More flexibility, upgrade wise.

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    Updated with some answers that GfK provided to our questions

    GfK got back to us today with the answers to some questions we believed were outstanding from our original news piece.

    The company's answers covered:

    * The universe of GfK's IT data

    * Media gateways - why this current generation is not yet a media-centre killer

    * Intel Viiv and AMD Live.

    So, we've updated the HEXUS.headline news story with GfK's responses.

    Check it out.
    Last edited by Bob Crabtree; 04-07-2006 at 01:17 PM.

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