Those that never got to experience Windows Media Center as the hub of a home entertainment system likely wonder why there is such a vocal group of people who cherish it and what it brought to the living room. The ease of use of the wonderful ten foot user interface was one of those times where software architects just got it right. I built my first Windows Media Center PC about ten years ago, and it had capabilities that some cable providers still can’t match, including the ability to stream recorded content from the PC to an Xbox 360 (or a couple of other less successful Media Center Extenders) where it could be played back in another room, and you could quickly resume where you left off somewhere else in the house.

So it is understandable that there was disappointment when Windows Media Center did not get an update for Windows 8’s launch, and perhaps even some anger when it was announced that Windows Media Center would not be coming to Windows 10 at all, and any installations of Windows 10 over computers with Windows Media Center would end up in a prompt to let you know it would be removed. I think WMC was one of Microsoft’s finest examples of good software bundled with hardware support, and though we lacked the CableCARD standard in Canada, I was still able to record multiple HD stations on my now defunct WMC PC and broadcast them around the house.

I loved the software, and even the version that came with Windows 7 back in 2009 is to this day far superior to any cable box I have seen even six years later. But despite this, I eventually mothballed my WMC PC and went with the less robust Cable Co DVR setup just last year. The reason? Having a full PC running in my living room 24/7 was not without its challenges. I was of course the only support line to call if anything happened, and partially due to the lack of native HD support in Canada I decided to give it up. I don’t enjoy what I have now at all, but it works, and I, like many others, have found myself watching less cable TV anyway.

With the rise in streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, cable TV certainly is under pressure it has likely never faced before. And so I think it makes a lot of sense that Microsoft has decided to shift its focus away from WMC, which was almost certainly an extremely expensive venture, to the Xbox One.

Back in April, Microsoft announced that it was adding Over-The-Air TV tuner support to the Xbox One for North America, supplementing the existing tuner that was already available in Europe. At the time, I said that adding DVR support would put this over the top, and today we have an official announcement that this is happening. The Xbox One will offer OTA TV DVR capability next year. And the introduction certainly seems to move the Xbox One into a WMC replacement.

You will be able to stream recorded TV from the Xbox One to any Windows 10 PC, or even mobile devices running Android or iOS using the Smart Glass app. The new connected age also lets you schedule recordings through the Smart Glass app so you can set up recordings almost anywhere. In a way, it basically replicates what WMC could do by streaming to an Xbox 360, but reverses it.

 

Is it a true replacement for WMC? No, certainly not until it supports CableCARD, since it restricts you to just recording OTA broadcasts, but for a lot of people this is exactly what they want. The Xbox One can now be at the center for people who “cut the cord” and ditch cable, since it offers a pretty good assortment of streaming and local video playback.

Windows Media Center was great for its time, but I am glad to see that Microsoft is not abandoning it completely. Moving the capabilities to the Xbox One make a lot of sense, and should open the technology and experience up to a lot more people, since you don’t need an IT background to keep your DVR up and running any longer. They have not announced any plans for support for recording from either CableCARD yet, but still, this is a nice step for the Xbox One and should be a great solution for a lot of people.

Source: Xbox Wire

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  • Margalus - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    I take issue with the comment that "Microsoft is not abandoning it", because they did abandon it. Taking it away from computers and putting it into a console is the same as abandoning it. I have a computer with windows media center as my htpc. I'm not about to go out and replace it with some crappy console.

    All Microsoft is doing is pissing off a lot of people.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    Isn't the industry abandoning CableCard in favor of some software based solution that cable companies can cripple even further anyway? Don't get me wrong, I'll lament it as much as any HTPC user, since I've had a string of TiVos I've been very happy with (including two CableCard based models)...

    But still, doesn't seem like anything really impacts or manages to seriously disrupt the cable/satellite industry, and WMC was a blip in the radar in the grand scheme of things (as is TiVo for that matter).
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    Thanks for pulling that out of context. I said they're not abandoning it completely, and they are not. A good chunk of the functionality is being moved to the console, and that's great to see. But yes WMC is still dead on the PC. Reply
  • Margalus - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    no, it's not out of context. It's just a vastly different opinion than yours. You say they didn't abandon it because they are moving it. My opinion is that it is abandoned. If it is going away from the box it always ran on and going to a gaming console, it's the same as being abandoned to me since it will never again be in my household.. Reply
  • babadivad - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    Semantics. The software set lives on, just on Xbox. PC support is abandoned but the software isn't. Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    So because Windows Media Center had some fans, it should be supported and worked on forever? Are you being honest with yourself?

    I too enjoyed Windows Media Center from 2009-2012 and it was great, but it absolutely was the wrong approach of Microsoft wanted to build a DVR for mainstream adoption because tying a DVR to a PC that needs to be updated and rebooted every now and then is an extremely terrible idea. And as flexible as most people think their current system is, its as just as finicky unless you put a ton of effort into it. It's not plug and play, the HTPCs that Microsoft originally intended were sold by HP and no one else (for thousands of dollars too), and Microsoft has the telemetry to know how many people used Media Center and what for.

    The logical place for DVR recording always has been and will forever remain to be the box Microsoft had already convinced plenty of people to hook up to their TV, the Xbox.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, August 07, 2015 - link

    jeffkibuule: I disagree. I find running WMC on a dedicated computer extremely easy, the interface is wonderful (Kodi mimic skin is almost as good), I can run Amazon Prime movies on it simply, do light web browsing - all very normal. No doubt I could do something similar on the Xbox. But what I cannot do on the Xbox, which I do on my HTPC is rip movies/music from disc. My HTPC is not being upgraded from W8.1 so that I can preserve WMC

    Could someone convince MS to make WMC open source and let the community play with it
    Reply
  • BucksterMcgee - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    My only hope is that this is a Universal app and that Microsoft will also allow this app on Windows 10.

    As silly as it might be I have several family members (and a few PCs myself) that simply can't be upgraded to Windows 10 because they primarily use Media Center. I really want to upgrade everyone to Windows 10 but without a Media Center replacement, it's basically over our cold dead Media Center hugging bodies. I did try a few other 3rd party DVR systems, but between them simply not recording or being a pain in the ass to use and setup, I'd rather just stick with Windows 8.1.

    I'm not even sure what would prevent Microsoft from allowing the app to work on Windows 10; licenses? support for different TV tuners? I hope they don't intend to use it as a way to push Xbox Ones. That device needs to stand on it's own, not force users to buy something they don't want. Besides, can the Xbox One record more than one channel at a time?
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    Good thought about this maybe being able to run on 10. It would have to be at least partially compatible...I mean they're both NT (at the least), would use at least partially the same APIs, etc. To one degree or another they'd be at least partially compatible. Reply
  • Hachi0Hachi - Wednesday, August 05, 2015 - link

    MS ditching WMC has been a bummer for me, I have been using it for almost 10 years and things really hit their stride with the HDHRprime and Intel Nuc combo for me, its just a perfect blend of software and hardware. I don't have an Xbox One and don't want to buy one just to replace my setup. Guess I will just ride windows7 till the guide in WMC goes dark or Silcon Dust's HDView app is ready to replace it. Reply

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