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HP Exits Media Center Business

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the pioneer-with-arrows dept.

HP 99

MCE writes "The first big adapter of Microsoft's Media Center Edition is quietly dropping MCE. HP is ceasing production of its Digital Entertainment Center, the only real success story for Media Center PCs in a living-room form factor. As the first company to embrace Microsoft's MCE, at a time when the platform was still half-baked, HP was simply spent by the time Vista rolled around. Now the company will put its resources into MediaSmart, a new line of TVs with a digital media adapter (not an MCE) built in. HP insists that its departure is not a statement about the viability of the Media Center platform."

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I bought one of their first Media Center PCs (2, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510889)

I installed MythTV under OongaBoonga lunix and then called to get new balls for my mice and THEY HUNG UP ON ME AND CALLED ME A FAG0T! They managed to say it with one G, and a 0 too.

Which was nice.

HP has anal sex with chimpanzees (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511069)

Interesting, but does it run linux? Not anymore...HP cancels your warranty if you install the Linucksez.

MODERATORS!!!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511247)

Mod parent up!

MOD parent UPPPPP.PPPPPP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511383)

idiot

Mawwwwwwwdssssss, you Weeeetawwwwwdssss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18517387)

Mod him up! Retard..

Re:I bought one of their first Media Center PCs (-1, Offtopic)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511143)

and they said it so very loud you heard it after they hung up. That's one big-ass exclamation point.

Correct spelling.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18510917)

Adopter.
Spell check sure is wonderful!

Re:Correct spelling.... (-1, Offtopic)

Starburnt (860851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511077)

Ewe shore a boot fat?

Spelling be damned... (1)

Twisted64 (837490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512069)

Spell check sure is wonderful!

It's a fine thing, to be sure, too bee shore. Now that the spelling's right, all we have to do is find the right words!

...it's adaptor. An adopter is a person who pretends to love you, until it turns out you have super powers, then it turns out he's working for an evil corporation, then it turns out he loves you anyway despite being morally grey.

Re:Correct spelling.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18516987)

Adapter was correctly spelled in the submission, 'tis you who has mispelled it.

not quite (3, Interesting)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510925)

HP is ceasing production of its Digital Entertainment Center, the only real success story for Media Center PCs in a living-room form factor.

You're completely missing the point that MCE was a dry-run to get the xbox done right. The path of the XBOX + xbox marketplace is the real fruit of Microsoft's MCE endeavor.

Re:not quite (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511113)

I'll tell you how Apple TV could be buried tomorrow. If the Akimbo video-on-demand service (www.akimbo.com) didn't require the purchase of a Windows Media Center system ($800+ for anything decent) and just worked through Xbox 360, you could have legal, all-you-can-eat TV programming for $10 bucks a month, instead of paying Apple $2 per show. Now, you must either do Windows MCE (and optionally stream to Xbox 360) or buy Akimbo's craptastic RCA standalone unit.

As it stands, I'm getting an HP MCE system at CompUSA on clearance to stream the Akimbo service to my Xbox. I entertained getting an Apple TV and even ordered one, but I cancelled the order.

Re:not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511187)

I don't know about that, but there's some serious implications to that. If HP is dropping it, then either they're not making profit off of it, or they're just not selling or something. If the biggest vendor of WinXP MCE quits, maybe we can kiss CableCard goodbye...

Either ways, most people who want a PVR opt for other solutions. Who wants to have to visit windows update with their "PVR"? Who wants their PVR to BSOD (or perhaps drop frames or have spyware issues or whatever) at the middle of some show?

-Those who want something more elaborate (and know linux a bit) opt for MythTV. Windows users who want to do analog capture also have a plethora of solutions (like gbpvr, meedio, etc)
-Those who want bit-for-bit, perfect, high quality DVB captures (not that crappy analog capturing sutff) opt either for VDR (under linux), or one of the many windows solutions (like mytheatre, progdvb, etc), along with CI module or softcam
-Those who just want simplicity just buy a tivo, or go with their cable/satellite provider's PVR
-those who didn't really want a PVR but rather a "multimedia device", which is now filled with cheap "divx players" and things like XBMC on a plain old XBOX
-And then there's the folks with only OTA HD, often using ATSC tuners

There's just not much of a niche left for XP MCE. The only thing I liked about it is the availability of cheap and half-decent MCE remote controls, which now work with most software (using girder before that with a serial IR receiver or UIRT was a pain!)

And after seeing MCE fail like this, I won't be surprised if their newfangled "storage server" fails too.

Re:not quite (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519359)

I built a shuttle based MCE PC myself, and really like it. I have the PC connected to an LCD HD TV and use it to play music, surf the interweb, and even play sega genesis EMU game, and older PC games. The media center part of it is very easy to use - certainly as easy any TIVO-like device I've ever seen.

That said, it failing on a mass-market scale does not surprise me one bit. While a properly set up MCE system can be really cool, it still requires too much knowledge to set up to succeed on a mass scale.

I also must refute your assumption that people that know what they're doing would always use MythTV. Since the OEM copy of MCE 2005 I bought cost me $110, I of course looked into the possibility of going the MythTV route, but chose to go with MCE instead because based on comments from across the net and my experience getting it set up on my machine beforehand, MythTV is a huge piece of buggy shit that needs a ton of work to become anything more than a toy for someone with tons of spare time.

One of my other Directv receivers hooked to a FreeBSD machine, and I watch and record using the 'cat dev/cxm0 > xxx' method. Since the pvrxxx driver in FreeBSD doesn't come with a GUI channel changing utility and there is no TV viewing app for FreeBSD that supports non-brooktree capture cards, I was forced to write a shell script to change the channels and emulate a TV viewing app via mplayer. The whole hacked-up setup I have on FreeBSD was no more frustrating than my test run with MythTV (I had a few package issues, and configuration of the whole thing was a massive PITA).

No it isnt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511201)

Since when does Xbox come with TV tuners or DVR software?

That is what MCE was for.

Re:No it isnt. (3, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511239)

Since when does Xbox come with TV tuners or DVR software?

You think the future of video programming involves something as archaic as TV tuners and DVR software? You might as well be asking where the buggy-whip-holder is in your new car.

Re:No it isnt. (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511299)

You think the future of video programming involves something as archaic as TV tuners and DVR software? You might as well be asking where the buggy-whip-holder is in your new car.

But of course! DVR Shmee-vee-rrr! Bah! They will pipe the TV directly to you via the two large bolts sticking out of your neck. You will pause the programming by hitting your forehead against a solid object (hit twice to resume). Pulling left ear rewinds, right ear to skip forward. Volume controlled by a finger up the left nostril.

Re:No it isnt. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513929)

Maybe not the future, but the next 10 years is pretty safe. Until the old boys club decides that you can download content for a reasonable cost, or just download as much as you want, and back it up on standard DVD, then I'm much happier paying $50 for cable than paying $2 a show. I can use my DVR (SageTV) to record movies, tv shows, sporting events, and just about anything I want. It's going to take the old boys club a long time to start to offer a lot of shows for download. All those old sitcoms like the Cosby Show that play 6 times a day are really good to have sitting around on the DVR for something to watch when there's nothing on the TV. I would much rather just pay a flat fee and watch whatever I want, however I want, then pay $2 an episode to watch it only on licensed devices.

I think it was just a matter of... (3, Insightful)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510943)

...too much computer. If it was a pared-down machine with WinXP embedded, simplified interface (as in, maybe only Media Center?), etc. and brought it in under $500, it could have had a shot. However, computing on the couch (with a TV, no less) just feels odd to me, and probably to a lot of people out there. In addition, people who want a full-blown computer in their living room AND desktop are fairly limited in number - or at least that's what gut instinct is telling me.

Re:I think it was just a matter of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18510951)

If you think that was a dry run then you obviously haven't been in this business very long.

Re:I think it was just a matter of... (2, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510965)

If it was a pared-down machine with WinXP embedded, simplified interface (as in, maybe only Media Center?), etc. and brought it in under $500, it could have had a shot.

If it could play Gears of War and came with a wireless controller then it'd be totally bad ass!

Re:I think it was just a matter of... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511327)

Huh. Didn't know the Xbox360 ran embedded XP.

Problem is... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511007)

...you can't run XP and media player with anything but cutting edge horsepower. If you'd buy a $1500 computer and a $400 set top box, you'd probably jump at the idea of an $1900 combination box, right? Sort of a iPhone approach ($300 ipod + $300 phone = $600 iphone). Problem is that it really wasn't up to snuff - at least not TiVo-like plug and play.

Now they're facing a bigger battle - Vista. MCE is included, but the Vista version is more expensive, and you need two cores, minimum because the OS takes so much power to keep from imploding that you can't run media player and the OS in one core. Add HD to that, which took a tweaked box and a 3+ GHz processor in XP (plus incense, a rabbits foot, 2-3 shamrocks, and occasional human sacrifice), and you practically have to have a high dollar box. Oh, and no cable card support.

I'd throw in the towel, too. I've heard good things about MCE in the enthusiast forums, but those folks are willing to put up with a lot.

Re:Problem is... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511339)

> If you'd buy a $1500 computer and a $400 set top box, you'd probably jump at the idea of an $1900 combination box, right? Actually, no. Sometimes it's nice to separate things. I'd hate to be knocked both offline and off the tube if my computer went bad...

Re:Problem is... Cable Cards! (1)

tcolberg (998885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512759)

Yes, HD does make XP systems wince, but my Athlon XP 2200+ and 1 GB RAM does an o.k. job with it (slow disk I/O is the bigger problem). I think the bigger thorn in MCE's foot and perhaps the thing that keeps it from realizing it's true potential (to have DVR in addition to the Media Library) is the lack of cable card support. In order to control cable STBs, one needs to put IR blasters between the STB and the comp. There is the option of getting dual ATSC tuners, which would be lovely, but one needs a big aerial to get OTA HD reception in Los Angeles and I live in an apartment. The entire TV interface within MCE is amazingly well done and it's a shame that it's very difficult to put it to use. So right now, it's merely a video player on my TV, and it's a crashy one at that. Wonderful piece of software, but almost half of it can't be appreciated because of the BS that cable/satellite/media companies put us through with cable cards.

Re:Problem is... (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512781)

..you can't run XP and media player with anything but cutting edge horsepower.

With MCE you can *easily* be recording 2-3 HD channels while watching a DVD (or another channel) on a 2Ghz P4. I'd venture a guess that anything down to about a 1Ghz P3 would be trouble-free for a single live channel or DVD playback.

That's 5 - 7 year old hardware - how on Earth is it "cutting edge" ?

hardware requirements (1)

norminator (784674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18515301)

With MCE you can *easily* be recording 2-3 HD channels while watching a DVD (or another channel) on a 2Ghz P4. I'd venture a guess that anything down to about a 1Ghz P3 would be trouble-free for a single live channel or DVD playback.

That's 5 - 7 year old hardware - how on Earth is it "cutting edge" ?

On my 2.66 GHz P4 laptop with 2GB of RAM, Windows Vista (Vista, because that's what all of the new HP DECs would have to be if they did keep making them) crawls, especially in the Media Center interface. In fact, the Vista MC won't even play video files, it always says files are missing, try rebooting. The same video files play fine in Windows Media Player on the same system. I brought that laptop back to XP, and it does much better. I'm not sure how demanding the XP MCE is, but XP isn't the playground for the rising generation of Media Centers... the Vista ones do require a lot of horsepower.

Personally, I'm very happy with my 1GHz MythTV box, but I don't get any HD programming.

Re:Problem is... (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18516647)

What kind of raid array are you using to record 2-3 HD channels at the same time, or, alternatively, what kind of capture cards are you using that do realtime hardware h264 or better encoding?

Re:Problem is... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18517313)

Exactly - you need hardware encoding and decoding for HD. Not impossible, but an extra expense. Disc access shouldn't bee too bad...60Mb/s should cover 3 HD streams, and DVD player on a separate channel would be fine. A fresh XP box with a P4-2.8 will have problems decoding 1080i/mpeg2 content, though, without hardware support if anything else requires the processor.

Re:Problem is... (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521163)

Extra expense is an understatement. Right now, there are HD encoder cards, but they cost around $800 last time I checked. My solution right now is to feed the HD signal from my DirecTV HD receiver to my TV Tuner card via S-Video. Once it gets to the MCE machine, the picture is "only" 720x480, but an HD signal downsized to DVD quality still looks much, much better than a SD picture. I have hard time seeing the quality difference between the downsized MCE picture and the picture fed directly to my TV.

Re:Problem is... (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#18524751)

What kind of raid array are you using to record 2-3 HD channels at the same time, or, alternatively, what kind of capture cards are you using that do realtime hardware h264 or better encoding?

A standard 1080i, compressed MPEG2 broadcast is ~2.5MB/sec. 720p is ~2MB/sec. That's covered 99% of TV broadcasts (heck, probably 100% - does anyone do 1080p anywhere ? They certainly don't here in Australia.) Even then, 1080p would only be ~5MB/sec and a modern, single drive should easily keep up with 3 - 4 such streams.

Real-time encoding to something like h264 is a completely different discussion, and well outside the scope of typical MCE/HTPC usage. I'm not sure what you're thinking about, but it's not got a lot of relevance to this discussion.

Re:Problem is... (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518401)

you can't run XP and media player with anything but cutting edge horsepower. If you'd buy a $1500 computer and a $400 set top box, you'd probably jump at the idea of an $1900 combination box, right?

A combo box isn't the equivalent for a family.

Re:Problem is... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519721)

Neither is a single iphone for a married couple. I didn't say I agreed with the logic, but Jobs himself indicated the logic for the iPhone, and nobody seems to make much of it.

Re:I think it was just a matter of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511087)

I don't know. I just remodeled my basement and put up a 32" LCD screen and I love my HP Media Center. Great place for a desktop and a second TV. Got a good deal too a week before Vista Launch. I think HP is missing the big picture with so many people still looking to upgrade into HDTV

huh (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510977)

HP was in the media center business?

There was a company called HP? (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511333)

LOL. HP was in the calculator business? Maybe with all the amazing failures at HP people will someday say, "HP was in the computer business?" Could the company stay in business if it couldn't make money with tricks like expensive ink [gizmodo.com] and abuse of customers that lack technical knowledge?

My experiences in the last few years with HP have been so terrible there is not enough room to document them all. When Carly Fiorina destroys a company, it stays destroyed. Like many technically oriented companies, HP has mostly incompetent people on the board of directors, who mostly have little technical knowledge.

--
U.S. government violence encourages other violence.

HP? Is that a company? (2, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511391)

I'll let other people tell the story [google.com.br] . Customers are not the only people unhappy with HP. Employees are miserable, too: 14 Hewlett-Packard Company Secrets From A Former Employee [consumerist.com] .

Re:HP? Is that a company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18512473)

No. Hewlett-Packard is dead and buried with its founders. All that remains are two meaningless lower case letters.


The employees go to work each week wondering which of them will get laid off (it got so bad that HR/management had to change their phone notification from Fridays to Mondays 'cause folks quit answering their phones on Friday) or which benefit will disappear next (pensions are gone now too - only a measly 6% 401k match is left). Salary is average (if you can still find a job here in the US since management is hell bent on sending jobs overseas) and medical care is hardly subsidized at all (current hp employees take note: I got cheaper and more comprehensive coverage from the same provider on my own. YMMV). Raises? HA. Bonuses? Only often enough so the recruiters can say they actually exist (and the amounts are negligible).


Folks asked when I would leave hp and my response was "When HP is just like any other average company". Well, it is and I finally said "enough". There was no reason to stay at hp.


I found a new employer that pays 100% of my medical, contributes an amount equal to 25% of my salary to a Keogh account (which I can manage like a 401k), and a 23% raise to boot.


I still have HP stock that I bought pre-Carly and it's value is still underwater. Perhaps one day (like when I can get my "frozen" lump sum retirement money) I can sell it at parity and cut my ties completely.

A real shame. Hewlett-Packard was a company I always wanted to work for. hp is not.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511559)

Where have you been for the last 10 years?

Means. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510981)

I own an HP Media Center and it works great. That aside, this is just business. HP wants to address a market of people who want DVR/AVI/MPEG and of course TV abilities. To do this HP must design a platform that aligns with their business model. It used to be MCE and now its a digital media adapter. They perform the same roles. HP is and integrator of tech and one obvious benefit of their new choice will be lower support costs as I suspect it will be more difficult to crash a simpler embedded system than a full blown install of XP. I think this is a means of reducing costs and therefore increasing profits - something every good company tries to do.

Re:Means. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511101)

Some form of Windows VFW and DirectShow junk is useful though if you want to maintain compatibility with propriety/future/obscured CODEC out there.

Works? HP MC got panned hard by Washington Post. (0, Troll)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511979)

I own an HP Media Center and it works great.

Rob Pegoraro was much less than impressed by this line of machines, [slashdot.org]

under XP and Mepis does better than Vista [desktoplinux.com] on newer versions. Other than replacing the OS, I wonder what you did to get better results out of XP or Vista than the above cited articles.

That aside, this is just business.

Sure, it's bad business to sell things that don't work.

Noooo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18512219)

You mean desktoplinux.com thinks Mepis is better than Vista? Say it ain't so!!

Re:Works? HP MC got panned hard by Washington Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518761)

The Washington Post article is mostly about Intel's project. The HP media center is briefly mentioned for the author to say that he was unimpressed with it in the sense that it's not much of a departure from a typical HP pc. Well obviously it doesn't have to be, any PC with a great processor, plenty of ram, a good video card, and good cd/dvd writers can be good media centers... and that's hell of alot different from "it don't work."

The second article from a biased linux zealots site, mostly complains about lack of hardware support. If Vista came preinstalled, it would have the necessary hardware support. I guess for zealots that inconvenient truth is not something that needs to be considered. The article doesn't make it sound like they had that much difficulty with either linux or windows anyway.

But, I don't see the point of discussing using linux for a media center OS. Not in the US! It's illegal to install and use libdvdcss, which takes it out of the running. And dvd playback should be an important part of a media center. So linux looses, at least in the US, sorry. I think linux > windows was only thrown in as a cheap stunt to get karma anyway. It has nothing do with the viability of HP's media center series.

Strangest business decision ever... (4, Funny)

copponex (13876) | more than 7 years ago | (#18510999)

"HP insists that its departure is not a statement about the viability of the Media Center platform."
Oh, yeah. I was making tons of money selling this product, but I've decided to stop. Not because it says anything about the profitability of the product I was selling, but, you know... just because. I'm not licking Microsoft boots either - let's face it, that's kind of an oxymoron.

(phone rings... whispers... "$150 per copy of Vista?!")

Ahem... on second thought, I respectfully withdraw that last statement.

Re:Strangest business decision ever... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513343)

Actually, the products that they're talking about are machines like this. [cnet.com] To the best of my knowledge, HP were the only big-name company that actually attempted to market HTPCs as standalone entertainment centers. Everyone else seems to market their machines as "a computer you can hook up to your TV." So, in that sense, I don't think they were making tons of money at all, since they were vastly overpriced and never seemed to go anywhere...

Serious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511013)

How is this interesting? What are the implications?

(I'm sure it is, it just seems.. moot to me).

Makes sense to me (1, Flamebait)

heybiff (519445) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511021)

After having my DEC for five months I've figured out a few things: MCE sucks ass, MCE breaks REAL easy: even allowing automatic updates to run is enough to break it, the media guide is the worst I've ever used, and extended warranties rock. I've had to send back my DEC for both software and hardware issues, and I'm going to purchase an extended warranty for as long as I try to keep it. HP is gonna pay out the ass for Microsoft's mistakes.

On a good day it's an excellent device; all the features you would want, a very nice look and feel, and more than enough oomph out of the box to record two signals and play a DVD at the same time. It's just the "not finished-ness" of MCE. NO plans to sample Vista either.

Hp, my machine is broke, I'll be calling when I get an hour or two to go through the song and dance with your tech support again.

HeyBiff

Adopter, not adapter.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511073)

Dumbasses...

Please, mod down this post, but correct the error my child wouldn't make...

Rumor has it... (4, Funny)

Shawn Parr (712602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511081)

that on their new systems changing the channel voids the warranty.

I Have an XP MCE PC (4, Interesting)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511223)

I have a self-built MCE PC. It's very nice; it has a wonderful, reasonably speedy interface, records HDTV via antenna or cable (thanks to some specialized hardware), and allows me to do some nice HD upconverting for SDTV Xvid stuff and DVDs.

I can not imagine any of my family, friends, or acquaintances buying one. They're expensive when done right, and they're really only useful for a very small portion of the population. In essence, MCE PCs have two big draws: a nice interface for music/movie/picture viewing and DVR functions. For a smaller group, upconversion and scaling is a selling point, but I doubt they register in the grand scheme of MCE owners.

If people want DVR, they get it from their cable company (just ask TiVO). If they want HD DVR, they get it from their cable company. It is only a very small subset who genuinely benefit from the HD DVR features in XP MCE. It works very well with over-the-air recording, and can be hacked to enable QAM recording with certain hardware. My cable company happens to send some cable channels plus all local channels via unencrypted QAM along with my cable internet service, so I end up getting "free" HDTV service.

I have a 1080p HDTV. Most people don't have an HDTV, and thus, don't care about HD DVR features. See above about what they do when they want to record TV.

I have a nice home theater system set up; it is nice for me to be able to listen to my audio via that system. For many people that isn't particularly necessary. I also value the fact that what would be a digital cable box, a CD changer, and a DVD player are all bundled into one 3U-sized box, but for many people, the space occupied by a couple of additional boxes isn't a big deal. Even with that, I still hate the music playback interface for MCE, and usually exit out to iTunes for my audio.

In essence: the current version of XP MCE (I can't speak to Vista) is well-done, well-featured, and user-friendly enough for my wife to sit down, watch and record HDTV and listen to music. If you have an HDTV and an extra $1,500 for a nicely-done MCE computer, XP MCE is a good solution. But it's really expensive to have a dedicated PC in a living room, and it's only relevant for a small section of the population. When the MCE PCs started shipping, most of the HP models were just higher-end desktops anyway - they were merely the next model up in the line. I highly doubt that many people were actually using them as a dedicated media center. For the gadgety few who truly care about having the proper, dedicated MCE box, I'd guess they're just as likely to order from one of the many niche white-box builders (or roll their own).

IF (Huge IF) AppleTV gets some sort of official TV recording device, especially one with cable-card functionality, I could see it succeeding in this market. As it is, though, I imagine that there just aren't enough takers to justify the market for anyone other than niche builders and the occasional MCE laptop.

Succeeding without recording (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511691)

Why can't the Apple TC succeed just as it is? When people realize they can have basic cable and simply rent or buy on ITMS all of the TV they watch for less than the price of the subscription that previously delivered it to them, and all without figuring out recordings or worrying about shows getting bumped/shifted... it's all just much nicer than when your PC is unnaturally slaved to a broadcast medium.

For live stuff I honestly think OTA HD is all most people wil need, and for that solution people can just buy an elGato HD receiver with DVR like software that automatically encodes shows recorded for use in iTunes.

Re:Succeeding without recording (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511893)

$2/show adds up really fast, which is why I don't see Apple TV doing too well. Personally, I think of TV shows as disposable and I have no desire to keep them. If they offered shows for much less with a short window of time (like a digital rental), I'd be all over it.

$80/month even faster (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18515445)

Think of how series work - you get a show a week, with breaks.

That means that any series you watch is going to be at most $8 a month to buy outright.

That's ten series a month. People watch a lot of TV - but then, that is a lot of TV.

Re:Succeeding without recording (1)

SuperMog2002 (702837) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518355)

I don't know how many people this diescribes, but in my case, I don't watch very many shows anyway. It's significantly cheaper for me just to buy the ones I want to watch a la carte than for me to subscribe to cable. In addition, I have all the episodes I buy forever, so if next week or next year I decide I want to watch a couple of my favorites again, I just hit a couple buttons on my Apple remote and they're playing, with no additional cost.

Re:I Have an XP MCE PC (0)

brjndr (313083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511785)

What specialized hardware are you using to record hidef? I've been looking into doing this too.

How I enjoy TV. (1)

avihappy (1023761) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511841)

I use my Macbook Pro and the eyeTV Hybrid to do my DVRing. The eyeTV2 software is really good, and has a media centre like interface. Unlike you, I watch my shows not on the Big screen, but on my iPod.

Re:I Have an XP MCE PC (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512127)

Hey, what HDTV capture card do you use?
My cable company (COX) sends all the HD channels over basic cable, and we don't get much over the air, so a card that can use cable seems perfect.

Re:I Have an XP MCE PC (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513447)

Look into silicondust's [silicondust.com] HDHomeRun. It's a small box with two OTA/QAM (digitalTV over cable) tuners and an ethernet port. It sends the video out via RTSP, and you connect to the box as though it's a streaming video source. There's a small included utility that changes channels for you from your remote computer and tunes to the signal using VLC.

In XP or Vista MCE, their drivers create a virtual "card" that does the same thing, only within the MCE interface. It's the only product I know of that enables QAM without a cablecard in MCE because MS never designed MCE to tune into the frequencies used by QAM.

SiliconDust's website looks like some pretty amateur-ish crap, but their hardware ($180) has performed well and does exactly what they say it will. Their tech support guys live in the forums and have been known to compile special version of firmware baed on people's particular complaints. It's a good product.

Re:I Have an XP MCE PC (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512821)

If you have an HDTV and an extra $1,500 for a nicely-done MCE computer, XP MCE is a good solution.

$1500 ? A bog-standard Mac Mini with a couple of USB tuners (plus a bigger/external hard disk if you record a lot) makes an _excellent_ HTPC, and comes in a hell of a lot cheaper than $1500.

If you're happy to use a whitebox PC and hide it behind the TV cabinet, you could do it even cheaper.

Re:I Have an XP MCE PC (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513417)

You're right, it does. Except when you want HDTV recording, and you venture into $300 Elgato gear, and your on-screen interface is now a crazy mix of front row and exiting out to using a wireless mouse to schedule recordings in the Elgato software. At that point you're into $800 Mini + $300 Elgato Tuner + $150 external drive because, trust me, HD chews up hard drive space like no one's business. Plus, your video card can handle outputting SD at 1920x1080, but starts choking on 720p playback output at that resolution. Plus, scaling and playback of some formats (.mkv, for example) is much harder unless you're willing to use VLC, at which point you completely lose any sort of pretty front row interface and you're now using a keyboard and mouse exclusively for your TV. Which sucks.

Again, like I said above - if you're interested in SD playback, there are better solutions than MCE. If you're interested in an SD DVR, there are better solutions than MCE. If you're interested in HD DVR features alone, there are better solutions. If you want HD Playback, upconversion for SD media, and HD DVR features, MCE makes for a nice package. The amount of people who want those features and are willing to pay for it is too small; hence, HP leaves the market.

The Nice Thing About MCE (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511225)

The nice thing about Windows XP MCE was the price. With a dual processor CPU you'll never want to use XP Home. (Well, you'd never want to use XP Home anyway, but that's a different story.) If you want all of XP Pro with the exception of Active Directory and the ability to join a domain (you can always VPN into the domain anyway), then MCE saves you a few bucks in the process.

Re:The Nice Thing About MCE (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511551)

The only copy of WinXP I allow in my presence is on my wonderful HP 8230 media center laptop; it's the most expensive computer i've bought in 20+ years of buying computers, and I don't regret a penny of it. it plays any game under the sun well, has a giant 17" screen & full size keyboard, and the PVR abilities are outstanding.
It's now 1 year old, and I've had zero problems (after disabling all the XP eye-candy & spyware crap possible).
The only real problem is that the PVR functions only get used when I'm on the road; when I'm home it's on my desk, not sitting next to the TV. And of course the DRM restrictions are a pain in the ass, you can't easily copy something then burn it to a DVD.
Good thing I have a Matrox Marvel for stuff like that.

Re:The Nice Thing About MCE (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512771)

With a dual processor CPU you'll never want to use XP Home

Why not? (Granted, I prefer XP Pro, but for other reasons) XP Home is perfectly capable of supporting processors with 2 cores and has support for hyperthreading for those two cores. Theoretically, you can have two cores each doing hyperthreading and thus showing up as four CPUs in the task manager, and all of this on Windows XP Home. See the next-to last question on Multicore Processor Licensing [microsoft.com] .

As far as I understood, a 16-core processor should work on XP Home too (as they charge per processor). Now, I'd like to see that with my own eyes, but according to their claims it does.

True, my "real" SMP system, meaning two single-core CPU's is not supported by Windows XP Home. That's why it runs Debian Etch.

Re:The Nice Thing About MCE (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18516847)

Everything seen is that XP Home will not support multiple processors, or HT. You need Pro, or now MCE, for that.

Re:The Nice Thing About MCE (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18525415)

That's weird, my wifes XP Home machine (bought about 4 years ago, methinks) is most certainly a P-IV 2.4 HT and both the real CPUs and the virtual CPU are detected correctly. Gotta explain this to me...

Besides, didn't you read the linked FAQ? A processor is not a core in Microsofts eyes. This means that HT or dual-core, both implemented in one processor seated in one socket on the motherboard, will work on Home. It's right there in the FAQ that I linked to! Now, my SMP machine, with one procesessor in each of the two sockets will not run XP Home with its full capabilities.

It's the sockets that count, dude...

Killing off that line for home server's debut? (1)

eraser.cpp (711313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511261)

As was announced as CES this year, HP is launching a new product in conjunction with Microsoft called Windows Home Server [wikipedia.org] . The device would logically replace their existing media center line of products, and is currently only in a beta stage with a release planned for sometime soon.

Re:Killing off that line for home server's debut? (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512317)

Windows Home Server has zero TV and DVR features (see the link you provided). It is designed to not even have a screen (it doesn't even need a video card to run).

How is it going to replace MCE again?

Re:Killing off that line for home server's debut? (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512343)

As was announced as CES this year, HP is launching a new product in conjunction with Microsoft called Windows Home Server [wikipedia.org] . The device would logically replace their existing media center line of products, and is currently only in a beta stage with a release planned for sometime soon.
Please explain to me how Home Server is going to replace Media Center? Home Server is not even close to the same thing...

Better off buying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511271)

An xbox/360 and (if required) a DVR.

The xboxes (in both incarnations) are far superior to pcs for media playing and the scene is far more active for enhancement.

The Windows Home Server (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511283)

HP is simply taking a different approach, network oriented, with the MediaSmart Windows Home Server [engadget.com] and devices like the TouchSmart PC. [hp.com]

The PC as a out-sized home theater component was probably miscast.

Some success story! (1)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511297)

It has been so successful that HP is dropping the line? Something tells me that the editorial writer differs with HP about how it should count its beans.

"Media Centers" without any format support. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511317)

Most of the time when i hear or see the "Media Center" label on a corporate produced product i think of a 3 to 5 format, drm encumbered piece of trash that just happens to record TV/HDTV out of the box (into DRM or patent encumbered formats).

this is hardly worthy of the term "media center", and would best be called "PVR-enabled" instead.

media center implies you can feed it anything from wmvHD encoded with wma 7.1 ch pro audio to h.264 encoded matroska with multiple video streams, 5.1 ch aac audio streams, and multiple tracks of subs in multiple formats and it will do what needs to be done with them.

as it is, a standard nightly build install of VLC will do more than so called "Media Centers", even if the DMCA prevents them getting proper PVR capacity.
give the PC market proper cablcard availability and it will record TV/HDTV as well.

Useful zune converter (0, Offtopic)

stehakeem (1080581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511325)

That is very interesting.I like it very much. http://www.zuneconverter.net/ [zuneconverter.net]

jeez, what a surprise (1)

Indy1 (99447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511329)

Almost everything HP puts out anymore is garbage. Its no surprise they are losing sales and killing off cutesy crap like this. The last few new HP notebooks I've had to deal with at work were awful from a hardware point of view.

Re:jeez, what a surprise (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512361)

That's funny that you say HP is losing sales. According to IDC, they have just displaced Dell as the #1 provider of computers and they have increased sales. Of course, why should I believe IDC when I can get my information from random people on Slashdot.

Perhaps they're dropping this because MCE downright sucks?

DEC is not Media centre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511357)

Hp is getting out of the DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT CENTER market. HP lauched a line of media center computers designed to look like another part of a customers home enterainment unit(or an oversized vcr). This was called the digital entertainment center(or DEC for short) lineup. The lineup was aimed at highend users, thus it was highly overpriced. I use to work for a hp subsidary that sold these as well as all other hp home products, and these sold very very poor straight from the get go.

Some information on WHY they're doing this (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511417)

Being involved in the digital TV industry for a few years now, I've seen that there's a big push to turn digital TVs into media powerhouses. There are chips that cost around $20 to produce (in 65nm) that will:

* Be your set top box (read: DCAS) - this is the most critical piece because it's from this that all of the media sharing frameworks like DLNA and SVP take place.
* Be your Slingbox - using DLNA- and SVP- compatible mobile devices, PCs and secondary TVs within the home plus standard Ethernet/WiFi and transcoding everything into H.264 profiles suitable for those devices
* Be your PVR - and I'm talking multiple simultaneous MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 streams with no recompression that can also be securely distributed around the home using the network
* Be your media access box - playing back all of your MP3/AAC/OGG and XviD/DivX/VC-1/WMV files, whether or not they have a DRM wrapper

Now, the trick here is that all of this can happen in the context of a single chip or platform, albeit with enormous bandwidth requirements (DDR3 dual-channel would be necessary although DDR2 can be doable with some functional tradeoffs). But the point is that they don't have to pay a Microsoft tax. Microsoft pitches CE-type OSes to the major DTV chip manufacturers (i.e. Broadcom, ST, AMD, Zoran, Mediatek, Genesis) but they usually run either Linux, some flavor of RTOS or an in-house OS. It's a lot of money to license a lot of the different standards and to put that lovely alphabet soup on the front of your new LCD TV. For example, those virtual surround technologies cost $0.50 per TV! And the end TV manufacturers like Samsung or Philips constantly bitch about these costs. When you also get to the point where issues like startup time and channel change time start impacting the end user experience, the constant battle over the control of the on-screen display, and the lack of hardware-secured conditional access solutions for cable for open PC hardware, it's a no-brainer to cut MCE out of the picture.

But really, HP has tried to take a very unique approach to DTV. They had the first DivX Connected DTV where you could take any PC and put DivX's software on it, and it would do all of the transcoding on the PC and you could view your media library on the DTV itself using your remote, both DRM-wrapped and otherwise. It's not necessarily the best solution, but it is a solution that exists today and eliminates the need for everything except an optical disc player and an A/V receiver with speakers for surround sound. This move is not only not a surprise, but the general trend that will continue until the DTV becomes the center of the digital home. At least in their eyes.

MCE won't die. There are lots of legacy TVs out there with lots of opportunities to build them in. But there are a lot of alternatives out there to MCE like GBPVR and MythTV, and you can be sure that the constant downward pressure on bill of materials costs will push the DTV guys to these types of scenarios. Couple that with the limited options for the Conditional Access and Digital Rights Management aspects on open-platform PCs (irrespective of free content), and this is exactly what you'll get.

opportunity (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511423)

Maybe this is a good time to buy up HP's remaining inventory on the cheap, put Ubuntu and MythTV on them, and resell them.

Re:opportunity (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512389)

I somehow find it hard to believe it would be easier reselling them with Ubuntu... unless they were only sold on Slashdot of course.

Size and form factor matter... (1)

grrrl (110084) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511489)

Yes, size does matter. So does form factor. And please correct me if I'm wrong but there are no HP media centres that you would want to fit proudly in around your TV. Small, quiet, stylish. Unobtrusive yet powerful. Something like say, a mac mini...

Seriously, if they expect people to put a full size computer will fans, power requirements and all right next to their TV and surround system (which can be pretty small) no wonder they couldn't sell any.

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511753)

Well, I prefer a standard A/V stack form factor, frankly. I have a mac mini in my system, but it just doesn't look right next to all the rest of the gear. I do agree with you about noise though---it's gotta be quiet.

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512409)

Does it look worse than if you stuck a regular old tower into your entertainment center?

However, I have seen a computer that was in the form factor you speak of. Was at a friend's house. Can't remember the manufacturer of it though....unfortunately. It looked pretty nifty.

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

sarathmenon (751376) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513311)

However, I have seen a computer that was in the form factor you speak of. Was at a friend's house. Can't remember the manufacturer of it though....unfortunately. It looked pretty nifty.
Perhaps something like ? I've wanted to get something like this, but they are a bit too expensive. They look damn good though. [antec.com]

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#18515607)

They do indeed. They're a bit bulkier than one might expect, but mine looks pretty frickin' awesome under my TV, loaded with a nice Via board and MythTV. Virtually silent, too...

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

bommai (889284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18515609)

HP is not discontinuing their media center PCs (towers). Ironically, they are discontinuing their digital media center (looks like a A/V component). Personally, I did not buy any of them because I don't do microsoft, but compared to the towers, the media center looked pretty nice in an entertainment center setting. Google HP z556 and you will see what I mean. But they were quite expensive and that is why HP is discontinuing them (lack of demand). Sony has a competitor too. It is their XL2 and XL3. Check those out too. They are very expensive too.

Re:Size and form factor matter... (1)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18516525)

Oh, by all means, given the choice between an old-fashioned tower or rack-mounted PC and a mini, I'd take the mini. Thankfully there is another choice, as you point out.

It's a niche market (1)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511537)

There are the folks like my parents who are just starting to understand the idea behind PVRs or simply want something that "just works". They're likely to go out and get a Tivo -- it's the most recognized brand name and seemingly simplest to setup for the non-technical majority. I suspect that's somewhere around two thirds of the PVR market right there. Then there are the the hardcore MythTV tweakers, who build their own PVR out of old PC parts and a capture card, use it to listen to their MP3 collections, play MAME and strip commercials from their favorite shows before transcoding and uploading them to their iPods.

That leaves this middle ground where presumably a person is not savvy enough to install Sage or Myth, but is happy administering a WinXP box that sits mostly idle in the living room so it can be within reach of the cable/sat connection. Yeah, that pretty much explains why it's a niche market.

Just a possibility ... (1)

HappyUserPerson (954699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511697)

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Windows Media Center Edition is now known as Windows Vista Premium (or Ultimate), which is selling very well [crn.com] and the Media Center features don't need their own confusing branding campaign.

factoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18511777)

As an aside, did anyone notice that "hp" logo upside down is "dy"? I noticed this when I looked at my laptop logo from the opposite direction. I know, it's a completely useless factoid and way off topic, and therefore I'm posting anonymously.

...Drops DEC line (2, Funny)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511823)

This wouldn't be the first time they've murdered DEC.

Timeing a conincedence? (1)

TheAwfulTruth (325623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511895)

No... there really isn't a reason to sell it any more.

If you want simplicity over everything else, you Tivo. Otherwise, on the Windows side, Vista has ALL the media center stuff including the simplified on-tv interface just like the media center "version" of Windows had... It's not a seperate product that requires a seperate machine any more.

There is simply no place for the product that HP was selling, so of course they stopped making it, simple as that.

Form factor? (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511927)

Media Center PCs in a living-room form factor

A living-room form factor? I can see why it failed - how many people would have the room for it?

More interesting is what isn't said. (1)

Tavor (845700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512505)

"HP insists that its departure is not a statement about the viability of the Media Center platform." Ah, but is hardware the problem? HP can make some decent kit when they feel like it... No, rather this is a question of software. Windows MCE quite plainly is a pain in the rear to deal with. Vista has also been rumored to cut severly into the MCE experience, and suck the fun out of CableCARD. Use this comparison of Windows MCE versus the new Linux MCE distro, and see what you think. Windows MCE vs. Linux MCE [internetschoon.nl]

Um... Vista Home Premium and Ultimate... (1)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512565)

...both include the Mediacenter stuff that the MCE version of XP had.

I'm pretty sure HP will still be selling those, regardless of whether they'll look good under your TV. If anything, over the next few years, HP will be shifting more units of MCE-grade machines...

MCE = Vista Home Premium (1)

Photo_Nut (676334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18512701)

The interesting market for MCE was the college student in a dorm room who wanted to save space and watch TV on their PC. As a set top box, MCE was interesting only in that it brought media into a "workstation/server" right under the TV.

There have been a few interesting developments in the past few years.
1) Vista Premium and XBox 360
The MCE 2005 has a toy "Media Center Extender" which works with the original XBox to deliver video to the XBox from the XP Media Center. The XBox 360 has native support for extending the Media Center from Windows Vista, and these features work much, much better (MS didn't get it right in V1, but V2 is fine).

2) The new Windows Home Server
Home Server is built on Windows Server 2003 (i.e. it's based on XP Server, not Vista Server), and promises to be a friendly solution to the needs of people who want one box to rule all their storage, backup, media, shared folders, and want convenient ways to get remote access to home computers from the web. Obviously, it appeals to the slightly less nerdy computer user as a box to manage their TBs of files and be a central home repository. Windows XP and Vista can be used just as well for this task, but some of the new features are nice.

I personally would like it if they included MCE features so that I could install Home Server over my 400GB MCE 2005 box with dual TV tuners and use spare CPU cycles on my HT 3GHz P4 to be able to downsample and stream video content (while recording) to my laptop over the cable modem. As it is, using a share and WiFi is ok, but I can only watch media from the laptop after it has finished recording on MCE. The interesting thing from my perspective is that I'm not willing to have MCE under the TV, but I'm willing to put an XBox there with an MCE Extender and a 10/100 Ethernet.

Unfortunately for me, when upgrade time hits later this year, I get hit for memory (512MB not enough for Vista), software (Photoshop CS doesn't work on Vista), and compatability (MCE Extender for XBox doesn't work with Vista's MCE). Hopefully one of my friends of friends at Adobe will let me get an employee discount on the PS CS3. I have a friend at MS who gave me Vista Ultimate. Eventually, MS will release Halo 3, and I'll solve the XBox 369 dilemna.

Hard to argue for buggy, but also... (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513751)

this may be an extremely rare instance where Microsoft stepped _ahead_ of the curve instead of _following_ in the marketing sweet spot of home and business consumer comfort. Looks like Media Center shares some issues with MythTV not only because it is rough around the edges but because the whole idea of a networked multi-function entertainment center is a little ahead of what most people want to deal with.

That said, once you do make the leap there is no going back. I dread the howl that will come up from my wife if I ever have the MythTV down for more than a couple days and she has to fire up the analog TV collecting dust.

It "Adopter", not Adapter (1)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18513761)

"The first big adapter of Microsoft's Media Center Edition is quietly dropping MCE".

Are you from New York?

I wonder if they'll go back to Linux (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 7 years ago | (#18517365)

HP had a GNU/Linux based MediaCenter PC but it was killed because they would lose marketing dollars from Microsoft if they shipped it. Now that HP is dropping the Microsoft MediaCenter PC for this smartTV setup, I wonder if that'll be GNU/Linux based?

But hey, I'd be happy if more HD TVs shipped without speakers let along have a MCPC embedded.

BTW, HP had a Linux and Java based handheld Jornada which met the same fate. Microsoft marketing dollars would be threatened if they shipped a Linux based handheld and the project was terminated. Microsoft innovation at work.

LoB
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