InsideMicrosoft

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The Media Center Tax

Thomas Hawk asks, “Why Use Starz Vongo Service for Remote Viewing When I Can do the Same Thing with My Media Center PC Now for Free?“.

Basically, he’s asking why you would pay $9.99 for the new Vongo service from Starz (or $1.99 per show from Apple), when Media Center lets you transfer unlimited shows, for the life of your PC, in any way you want to, forever. He also worries that ome day, Media Center won’t do that, and you’ll have to pay $9.99, on top of your cable bill, since the fact that Starz has a download service means Starz will stop working with Media Center.

First off, it’ll never happen, since if Microsoft did that, we’d all stick with Windows XP Media Center Edition, and never upgrade to Vista on our Media Centers, or alternatively, we’d use an alternative program that didn’t have such awful restrictions.

However, I’d like to look at it the other way. In my mind, every time you purchase a show from iTunes, every time you purchase a subscription to a movie channel you already get on your cable, you are paying the “Lack of Media Center Tax”. You are paying, in a way that is painfully obvious, for not having bought a Windows Media Center PC.

Sure, if you buy one or two episodes of Lost from iTunes, that’s no big deal, but if you are one of those people that use the service religiously, you are just plain losing out. Lets see:

  • Imaginary PC: $600
  • iPod with video: $300
  • One 22-episode season of TV: $44

Or:

  • The same PC bought with Media Center (free) and a TV tuner and remote control and IR receiver (add $100 @ Dell): $700
  • Creative Zen Portable Media Center: $258 (and can be had for $180-190, depending on rebates)
  • One TV episode, recorded off TV and synced to your device: $0

So, the prices for a PC with a fully-equiped Media Center and a PMC device are roughly the same as that of a non-MCE PC (hard to find anymore) and an iPod, and everytime you purchase content instead of getting it for free, you blow out your margins and lose more and more money. In a sense, the more enjoyment you get out of your iPod or other device, the less savvy of a shopper you were in the end, if you are paying for free content.

In my mind, that’s the Media Center tax. I refuse to pay it, but it seems like there are a lot of people that brag about paying it, that excitedly show off their low-quality episode of Lost when they could have an HDTV quality version and a portable version, at a much lower cost. I don’t get it, and I probably never will.

Now, I’m off to watch Monday’s “Medium”. For free. On my Portable Media Center. I bought two of them in November, for a total cost of $360. $360 for two devices, one for someone else. With my free TV shows. Enjoy your iPod. Enjoy your Vongo. I’m too busy not feeling jealous, and wondering how to spend the money still in my pocket.

January 4th, 2006 Posted by | Apple, General, Media Center, Windows, Windows Media, XP | one comment



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1 Comment »

  1. [...] Thomas Hawk responds to my “Media Center Tax” post with some great points. Inside Microsoft also doubts that we will see copying restrictions for programming set into Vista. “if Microsoft did that, we’d all stick with Windows XP Media Center Edition, and never upgrade to Vista on our Media Centers, or alternatively, we’d use an alternative program that didn’t have such awful restrictions.” Here I’m not so sure that I agree though. The big trade off gambit is HDTV. You will not be able to get CableCARD supported HDTV without Vista. Vista has the DRM protection schemes in place which allowed Microsoft to get CableLabs to approve the Media Center PC as a device. [...]

    Pingback by » Cable Card DRM  InsideMicrosoft - part of the Blog News Channel | January 5, 2006

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