Thomas Hawk has a great, lengthy review of the new Microsoft Media Center 2005, which he expected a bit more from, but it does sound like Microsoft's making some progress on it.
Highlights from the review:
- It only does over-the-air HDTV, but that's not entirely MS' fault. The cable and satellite folks have their own proprietary encryption schemes they're not into sharing with anyone.
- MCE will be available for purchase as a standalone product for the first time, instead of requiring you to buy a new PC. Could be a support nightmare for MS, but good on them for expanding the availability for build-it-yourself geeks.
- They've added the ability to buy and use Napster music and Movielink movies, which is novel. The Movielink thing is pretty comparable to the upcoming Netflix-TiVo deal, but Thomas says the video quality is low compared to uncompressed satallite, which makes sense, as you would want moves to be well under a gig a piece, while unencrypted movies could run several Gb in size and take days to download.
- They've tried to integrate the web a bit, letting you read hotmail onscreen and pay (!!!) to read RSS feeds through Newsgator.
- Overall, everything sounds snappier, but I think Thomas was underwhelmed mostly over the HDTV thing.