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HP Entertainment

HP Exits Media Center Business 99

Posted by kdawson
from the pioneer-with-arrows dept.
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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HP Exits Media Center Business

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  • 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.
  • Correct spelling.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Adopter.
    Spell check sure is wonderful!
    • 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.
  • not quite (Score:4, Interesting)

    by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:04PM (#18510925) Homepage
    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.
    • 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 C
  • by bluemonq (812827) * on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:07PM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by stratjakt (596332)
      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!
    • ...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 m
      • by bluemonq (812827) *
        > 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...
      • 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 bi
      • by drsmithy (35869)

        ..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" ?

        • 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.

        • 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?
          • 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.
            • by toadlife (301863)
              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.
          • by drsmithy (35869)

            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

      • by bigdavex (155746)

        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.
        • 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.
  • HP was in the media center business?
  • 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 th
  • by copponex (13876) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:15PM (#18510999) Homepage

    "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.
    • 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...
  • by Shawn Parr (712602) <parrNO@SPAMshawnparr.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:27PM (#18511081) Homepage Journal
    that on their new systems changing the channel voids the warranty.
  • I Have an XP MCE PC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) * on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:47PM (#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.
    • 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 jus
      • $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.
        • 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.
        • 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.
    • by brjndr (313083)
      What specialized hardware are you using to record hidef? I've been looking into doing this too.
    • 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.
    • 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.
      • 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
    • by drsmithy (35869)

      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.

      • 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 tha
  • 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.
    • by paganizer (566360)
      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 whe
    • 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

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

  • 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.
    • by Tim Browse (9263)

      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?

    • by rm69990 (885744)

      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...

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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,
  • 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.
    • by rm69990 (885744)
      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?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • 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.
    • by rm69990 (885744)
      I somehow find it hard to believe it would be easier reselling them with Ubuntu... unless they were only sold on Slashdot of course.
  • 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.
    • by mcg1969 (237263)
      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.
      • by rm69990 (885744)
        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.
        • 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]
          • by Abcd1234 (188840)
            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...
        • by bommai (889284)
          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. Ch
        • by mcg1969 (237263)
          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.
  • 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,
  • by ajlitt (19055) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @12:38AM (#18511823)
    This wouldn't be the first time they've murdered DEC.
  • 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.
  • 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?

  • "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 M [internetschoon.nl]
  • ...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...
  • 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 exten
  • 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
  • "The first big adapter of Microsoft's Media Center Edition is quietly dropping MCE".

    Are you from New York?

  • 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

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