I find that MS Media Center is an incredibly useful interface in my customized configuration. So I wonder why MS seems to not show much interest in marketing it's benefits? Is there any other User Interface out there that has the same flexibility and expandability?
Mark, I agree that adding the Wii to Netflix's offering for streaming was genius. I only wish that the system could stream-in-background and have the memory buffer for those of use with slow DSL. Personally, I'm very happy for now with their "old" mail system. Very good customer service, etc.
I have experience using the Netflix streaming service from two different devices to stream movies and television shows to my TV and love this service. It worked well using the built-in software in my LG Blue Ray player and also works well using the Nintendo Wii. The only complaint I have is the quality of the audio - it is not full surround sound for most of the material I streamed, even though the video quality was HD in some cases.
Making the streaming service available on the Nintendo Wii was a genius move by Netflix as it instantly made their service available to many millions of households on their almost ubiquitous game player.
As far as television goes, we never watch television live anymore. It is always through the DVR on three different services so far, Dish network, AT&T U-verse, and Comcast. We would get rid of cable entirely, however, if current television shows and sports events were more widely available through services like Netflix.
What makes this hard are the barriers that the various industries put into place. Until very recently it was way too complex to get HD media into an HTPC. The Ceton InfiniTV4 card should make that much easier (mine is on order). The Logitech remote mentioned above helps, but it is still hamstrung by the archaic open-loop IR remotes. I want a networked control that can get status of a TV / STB / whatever so that I don't get calls from my wife because a component didn't see a command.
Streaming content from the web to one's TV will become more the norm than the exception. With the networks publishing their TV shows on the web so they can be viewed in a time shifted mode, and with the emergence of original web content with quality production and compelling plots, the Web/TV experience will slowly converge into one medium streaming from both sources.
I concur with Feory that the Windows Media Center is becoming quite useable and useful. I push my 'TiVo on the go' recorded programs wirelessly (overnight) to my PC to clear space on my TiVo and then watch them on my Media PC which acts as my video library viewer. I am waiting to hear what the AppleTV enhancements are and I might spring for one.
In future, streaming TV programs from your Mobile rather than from your PC may become more convenient with some wireless interface dongle plugged to the USB port of the TV . No special remote or keyboard will be required in such cases and the mobile itself will work as TV remote.
How is WiDi related to this? Can we watch any web content if we have laptop with WiDi and small terminal interfaced to TV? Will TV vendors in near future incorporate WiDi functionality in TV so that we do not need external module?
For effectively using web, it is also important to have some keyboard interface in addition to remote control.
"...streaming movies from the Web to your TV is set to explode"? I'm not sure we're there yet. Web-to-TV is still either a walled garden (you get what they want you to get) or else a hacker's project, if you want the full freedom of accessing any web video content on your TV, easily, conveniently, and without a mouse & keyboard.
My setup is a media center PC that is hard-wired into my entertainment center. It includes a dual QAM (cable) HDTV tuner, so it serves as my backup DVR -- because sometimes the 2 tuners in the cable box just aren't enough!
I really like the Windows Media Center "10 foot" interface, and since we have been using it for a few years and are accustomed to it, I will most likely (and stubbornly) stick with it. A Logitech Harmony remote is also a must-have, so that all your equipment can be set up correctly with one button push, whether you're watching streaming online content, the cable DVR box, a Blu-ray disk, or whatever. It meets the spousal approval factor for ease of use :)
We have occasionally streamed TV shows and movies through the PC to the HDTV from Hulu and the TV network sites, but this has always been awkward because it has in the past required exiting Media Center, running a browser, going to the site, and then selecting full screen after the show or movie starts.
The Media Center plugins for streaming shows from the web from within the Media Center UI were very beta and clunky when I last tried them, but it's probably worth another look. I confess I have not yet tried Hulu Desktop, which integrates Hulu into the Media Center UI. Of course, it only works with Hulu.
It is interesting to see all the new boxes coming out from Boxee, Roku, etc., but I wonder if they will all go the way of Apple TV.
I have a first-generation AppleTV which I'm basically happy with. I use it mostly for boring guests with photos (a tactic that usually works) and renting the occasional Saturday night movie. When Boxee first came out I loaded it on the the AppleTV. Boxee didn't work all that well, but it did point to the fact I would like to stream videos from my PC to the TV. After a system update from Apple, Boxee no longer worked and I didn't keep up with the technology. With the impending release of a new version of the AppleTV I think is time to re-visit the entire spectrum of devices.