Both Windows Media Centre and Apple TV have been on the market now for years and both have their loyal supporters. For people who use Apple’s iTunes software, especially to download and play TV shows and movies, the ability to be able to play those on your TV via a small set-top-box is very compelling.
Windows Media Centre users have had a much rougher time of it. I myself have used Windows Media Centre as my only way to get TV and video onto my living room television since 2003. Back then it was an incredibly painful experience and, fortunately now, is almost completely pain free. I say almost because Windows 7 is still not the embedded operating system that allows for pain-free set-top-boxes running it.
Oh yes it is! Only recently Microsoft announced an embedded version of the OS that includes Media Centre and, while there are no set-top-box (I’m gonna get sick of saying that soon) devices yet announced by manufacturers, we can be sure that some are on the way.
But today Google have thrown their hat into the ring with a new STB (let’s just call it that!) by Sony that will run their new Smart TV service. This will allow people to search, because it’s Google and search is what they’re all about, for both live channels and web content including YouTube for interesting videos.
The box will also allow people to download applications which is interesting, because several TV manufacturers have already expressed interest in having widget-enabled TVs in their product lines.
Despite the popularity of Apple TV and Media Centre, Google’s offering probably stands the best chance of coming built into new television sets, because of it’s platform-agnostic offering, and the fact that you can simply plug your TV into your broadband connection and use it independently to browse the web on its own.
So which will you allow into your living room first, if at all? I’ve set out my stall and I’m kind of stuck with it now, but even so I’m looking forward to having a proper STB running Windows 7 Embedded.
Apple will need to raise their game to compete against both offerings and finally I believe Google is coming up with a new, first generation product that genuinely stands head and shoulders above the competition.
This is going to be an interesting fight for your front room.