While I was recording this weeks instalments of The Custom Integrator Show (out Friday) we were talking about UPNP, DLNA and Play To and this got be thinking about the future of digital media in the home and Extenders. First let me say that I love the concept of Windows Media Center extenders, I have an Xbox 360 connected up to my TV and audio equipment, I also have a HP Extender that I use in other rooms around the house. While I am happy with the Xbox 360 I know lots of people can’t put up with the noise and want a simpler device than a games console, the 3rd party Extenders like the Linksys and HP are under powered and don’t deliver the same experience plus they have been over priced. All the extender manufactures seem to have bailed out on the Extender model, at CES Toshiba promised to an Extneder but its not been seen yet. I would love to see TVs and Bluray players with Extender functionality built in but due to the small number active Media Center users there isn’t the demand for this. So my solution is to use the DLNA platform, because DLNA is a self describing protocol and is designed for different vendors and equipment to talk to each other there is no need for manufactures to code for Media Center specifically they can implement DLNA. So my Sony TV could consume Recorded TV from my Media Center box by using my home network and I could use my phone as a remote control, my hifi can play music from my Windows Home Server and the manufactures don’t have to know about each others system as long as the systems talk using standards. While most of this is in place now there are some things missing like scheduling recordings and this is where a Mesh Webguide come be used. I know the overall experiences would not be as good as Extenders, I can’t see the manufactures coming up with as elegant UI as Media Center but at least its achievable. I can see Windows doing all the transcoding and serving the media, recording scheduling and then lightweight DLNA clients around the home.
It isn’t the grand vision of Windows Media Center and Extenders but at least its achievable, Microsoft do seem to be investing in the transcodling / Play To features of Windows where as manufactures don’t seem interested in Extenders and maybe Microsoft isn’t either?