With the new Windows XP "Reloaded" push comes a whole heap of new media related software and devices such as; Windows Media Connect, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Media Center Extenders and Digital Media Receivers.
Sound confusing? You're right it does. As most of you know a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC is Windows XP Professional with really cool extras, it's designed around being the ultimate home entertainment solution, with added stuff like the ability to record TV similar to Sky+, but with buckets of other things; music, pictures, games and the rest of the features of a PC and without the limitations; having your recorded stuff stuck on a box that you can do nothing with and so on, like with Sky+.
A Media Center Extender like the one for the Xbox allows you to access your Media Center PC from another room, so you can stream your content to your Xbox and therefore onto another TV over your network. Sounds neat? It is.
On the other hand there is Windows Media Connect which is a piece of software that allows you to stream media from any Windows XP computer to a range of compatible devices, the Digital Media Receivers.
The receivers themselves come in a range of types all from different manufacturers, some only support audio, some support both audio and video. To put them simply they're little boxes that you hook into your Hi-Fi or TV and they connect to your PC and stream music so you can listen to it in another room. Sounds neat? It is.
Why am I writing all this? The fact that Microsoft aren't releasing an add-on for Xbox that allows it to act as a Digital Media Receiver. All the hardware is in the machine, it's more then capable, they're doing basically the same thing with the Media Center Extender for the Xbox, so why not make it compatible with Media Connect also?
The fact it is only going to work with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is pure insanity in my opinion, granted they have made some steps to bring the Media Center OS into the mainstream by making it available separately to the hardware (at about £80 OEM), so I could simply buy that and use it as my main OS, but then I wouldn't have all the extra features that make it worth while anyway.
If they released an Xbox in a bundle that includes Digital Media Receiver software for it and the remote, therefore allowing it to stream media from any Windows XP machine with the free Media Connect software they'd open up a whole new market for the Xbox itself, something they cannot do to the same scale if they only link it to Media Center Edition 2005.
May be they're afraid of doing this because if people start buying the Xbox to stream media from their PCs they won't be using it for games which is where they make their money.
May be they're afraid of doing it at risk of upsetting the manufactures they're trying to bring on board for Microsoft's Digital Media Receiver platform, as the Xbox is at such a price point it would be serious competition to them.
Either way Microsoft should get themselves together, either drop the whole idea, or do it in a way that ensures the widest compatibility and uptake rate, making the Xbox compatabile with both is the way to go.