This article is about Microsoft's Media Center concept. I suspect that MythTV has all, or at least most of the features mentioned, but I am familiar only with the Microsft offering.
For those who do not already have a large investment in audio-video components, except perhaps an expensive television, a Media Center PC may actually be a wise choice. Media Center Computers combine multiple components into a single box.
This solves a few problems. First the components can be well integrated, avoiding the problem of having having to chage the mode of three or more devices just to switch between television and DVD. Sure that may not be a problem for slashdot readers, but I know quite a few people who have difficulty with this. Second, there is only need for a single remote.
Third it cuts down on the wiring mess. Trying to connect each device in a typical home theatre system is non trivial, and eventually your devices will run out of inputs. Definately not ideal.
It may not be obvious what devices a Windows-based Media Center is intended to be able to replace, so I shall provide a list. Of course not all media center PCs ship with the hardware required to support all of these features.
- FM Radio Tuner
- Internet Radio Tuner
- Digital Radio Recorder (Think Tivo for radio)
- CD Player
- CD Recorder
- Digital Jukebox (No need for that 500 cd changer ;-) )
- DVR/PVR (Better than Tivo brand DVRs, because no subsription is needed).
- DVD Player
- Dvd Recorder
- Surround sound decoder. (You still need the speakers of course.)
- Lastly it can still function as a PC
Many people who criticize the XBOX360's limited media support, fail to understand the concept of a Media Center Extender, so I shall explain.
A Media Center computer is a great concept. As I mentioned above, they avoid the problem of inter-device communication. There is also the added advantage of interface consistancy.Yet there is a problem. A Media Center PC really only serves one TV. That is great for those who only have a single TV they watch regularly, however many people have more than one tv.
So Microsoft created the Media Center Extender. This is a device that connects to a secondary television, and to the Media Center via a network. The extender provides an interface to acess the content of the Media Center, which is streamed via the network to the extender.
The XBOX360 is one such device. Connect it to a television, a surround sound decoder, and the network, and that TV has access to all of your media as well as your entire Xbox/Xbox360 game library. (Yes, Microsoft does intend for people to stream live and recorded TV through the XBOX360.) This works best in conjuction with with the Universal Media Remote and a second tuner in the media center. Quite intersting is that new features added to the Media Center Interface of the Media Center PC can be used by the XBOX360, and things like an NES Emulator are currently available.
The ability to read music/pictures from an MP3 Player/Digital Camera/Standard XP PC was added to the 360 as an afterthought, and is not the primary Media functionality of the 360.